EU leaves it to IAEA to inspect Iran’s nuclear sites

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BRUSSELS – The European Union’s executive said on Wednesday it was up to the UN nuclear watchdog to inspect Iranian atomic facilities, after Tehran invited EU envoys to tour the sites this month. The European Commission said it had yet to reply to the invitation, sent to some ambassadors, including the EU’s, accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna just weeks before a second round of talks between Iran and six world powers on its disputed nuclear ambitions.
Iran invited the EU as well as China, Russia and others to visit in a move that raise questions in the West as to whether it constituted a genuine step towards more nuclear transparency or was a public relations stunt meant to divide major powers and buy time for further nuclear advances. The West suspects Iran’s nuclear programme is directed at developing bombs. Tehran says it is for peaceful energy only. The United States and Britain – two of the major Western powers in diplomacy to resolve the row over Iran’s intentions, dismissed the gesture. Both powers, as well as France, were not invited on the tour, according to US officials.
The EU said inspections should be carried by specialists from the International Atomic Energy Agency, rather than ambassadors to the UN watchdog who were invited by Tehran. “We haven’t answered the letter,” a European Commission spokesman told a regular news briefing on Tuesday, responding to a question whether the EU has accepted or rejected Tehran’s offer.
“But what we want to underline is that there is a process going on and it is for the IAEA to inspect Iran’s nuclear facilities.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the ambassadors were invited to travel to the country before Tehran and six world powers are due to meet in Istanbul at the end of January.
But Britain said “a tightly controlled visit of selected facilities is unlikely to provide the assurances needed by the international community” about Iran’s nuclear plans. of its inspectors.
IAEA inspectors regularly check Iranian nuclear facilities such as Natanz – the uranium enrichment site which is on the agenda of the planned ambassadors’ tour – to ensure that they are not being covertly used to yield nuclear weapons.
But the IAEA says Iran’s refusal to allow unfettered inspections beyond declared nuclear sites, as called for by the agency’s Additional Protocol, means it cannot confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.
The agency is increasingly frustrated at what it sees as Iran’s lack of full cooperation, including Tehran’s stonewalling of an IAEA probe into whether it may be working to develop a nuclear warhead. Iran says it is not doing so, but not provided IAEA access to people and venues to substantiate its denials.
Western governments have repeatedly urged Iran to open up completely to the IAEA to dispel mistrust.