Sunday, January 29, 2012

Iran hosts UN nuclear watchdog as tensions grow

TEHRAN — Officials from the UN atomic watchdog began a visit to Iran on Sunday to discuss Tehran's suspect nuclear drive, amid a backlash by furious Iranian lawmakers at a looming EU oil embargo.

The three-day International Atomic Energy Agency mission is to address evidence suggesting Iran's activities include nuclear weapons research.

The visit was seen as a rare opportunity to maybe alleviate a building international showdown over Iran's nuclear programme that has seen a ratcheting up of sanctions and talk of possible Israeli military action.

"In particular we hope that Iran will engage with us on the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme," Herman Nackaerts, the IAEA's chief inspector leading the delegation, told reporters in Vienna as he left.

"We are looking forward to the start of a dialogue, a dialogue that is overdue since very long," he said.

Iran's parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, on Sunday called the visit a "test" for the UN agency, according to the website of the official IRIB state broadcaster.

If the IAEA officials were "professional" then "the path for cooperation will open up," Larijani said.

"But if they deviate and become a tool (of the West), then the Islamic republic will be forced to reflect and consider a new framework" for cooperation, he added.

Iran, which maintains its programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes, is increasingly furious at the Western measures aimed at getting it to halt uranium enrichment. Read More