Iran`s nuke tour without major powers, key allies

A weekend tour of Iran`s nuclear sites appears set to go ahead without Russia, China, the European Union or key allies Turkey and Brazil, blunting Tehran`s attempts.

Last Updated: Jan 14, 2011, 20:59 PM IST

Vienna: A weekend tour of Iran`s nuclear
sites appears set to go ahead without Russia, China, the
European Union or key allies Turkey and Brazil, blunting
Tehran`s attempts to gain support from major powers ahead of
crucial talks on its atomic activities.

On the eve of the visit, Iranian envoy Ali Asghar
Soltanieh said today that representatives of non-aligned
nations, developing countries, the Arab League, Venezuela and
Syria had accepted invitations to visit Iran`s central Natanz
enrichment facility and its still-unfinished heavy water
reactor at Arak.

"This trip will offer the most transparency" regarding
Iran`s nuclear programme, Soltanieh told a news agency,
adding that the diplomats would be able to see "everything
they wanted."

He declined to discuss which other nations had been
invited or their responses. But China and the EU have in
recent days publicly declined. And diplomats familiar with the
issue said Russia, Switzerland, and Turkey and Brazil had also
either turned down invitations or had not responded with less
than a day to go before the departure from Vienna, where
Soltanieh represents Iran at the International Atomic Energy
Agency.

The diplomats - all accredited to the IAEA, which is
tasked with probing Iran`s nuclear activities - asked for
anonymity because their information was privileged.

With crucial talks between Iran and six world powers
in Istanbul just a week away, the timing of the nuclear tour
and the choice of nations invited appeared a possible attempt
to weaken unity among Iran`s interlocutors.

Moscow and Beijing are part of the talks. At the same
time, they are generally opposed to attempts by the other four
- the United States, Britain, France and Germany - to sharpen
UN sanctions on Iran over its refusal to stop activities that
could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Neither the US nor the three other Western nations
were invited to the weekend tour.

Brazil and Turkey have recently emerged as important
allies for Tehran in backing attempts to restart negotiations
on a deal that would see Iran ship out some of its
low-enriched uranium in exchange for fuel rods for a small
reactor making medical isotopes.

Those talks stalled more than a year ago and the West
considers them increasingly irrelevant as a way to slow
Tehran`s ability to make nuclear weapons by removing some
material that could be enriched into weapons grade uranium.

PTI