Last updated: 22 December, 2011

Iran ready for IAEA visit ‘as soon as possible’: envoy

Tehran’s envoy to the UN atomic agency said Thursday he would meet the watchdog’s chief nuclear inspector in Vienna in the first week of January to arrange a visit to Iran as soon as possible.

“As soon as the holidays are over we will sit down with Mr (Herman) Nackaerts and arrange the visit,” Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Tehran’s envoy to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told AFP.

“As far as we are concerned his team can come as soon as they are ready,” Soltanieh said, adding that the meeting would happen in the first week of January and that the visit could take place later the same month.

He said Iran had renewed an earlier invitation despite its “disappointment” that inspectors had not visited ahead of a November IAEA report on Iran’s suspected covert nuclear weapons activities.

“Once again we have decided to show political will and our good intentions to cooperate with the IAEA in order to demonstrate transparency about the exclusively peaceful nature of our activities,” the envoy said.

He added that he wanted the visit by inspectors to ensure that “past mistakes are not repeated… and to end this endless process once and for all.”

News earlier this week of Iran’s renewed invitation to inspectors was greeted with scepticism by Western diplomats to the IAEA, who expressed doubts that Iran would help clear up issues in the November 8 report.

“To us it seems in keeping with Iran trying to mollify the IAEA without really offering anything substantive,” one told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The United States earlier welcomed the fact that the IAEA had been invited back, but State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland added: “We want to make sure that this visit is complete.”

She said inspectors should “get to all the sites they want to get to; that they can interview anybody that they want to see; and that they get to all the records that they need to see, because this is the standard that we want to see Iran implement.”

The November report, the IAEA’s hardest-hitting to date, expressed “serious concerns” that the Islamic republic “has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device”.

Iran, already subject to four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions and which says its nuclear programme is peaceful, rejected the report as “baseless.”

Ten days later the IAEA board passed a resolution submitted by all five UN Security Council permanent members condemning Iran but stopping short of reporting it to New York or setting a deadline for Tehran to comply.

The United States, the European Union and other allies imposed tighter sanctions after the report and are expected to unveil more soon, targeting the country’s vital oil sector and central bank.