Iran snubs US, invites other nations for N-tour

Jan. 4: Iran has invited Russia, China and several European Union members to visit its nuclear facilities in January, but pointedly snubbed the United States, European diplomats said on Monday.

Tehran confirmed on Tuesday that it had offered the invitation to show what Ramin Mehmanparast, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, called transparency and “Tehran’s goodwill” on its nuclear programme.

The invitation — which seemed calculated to divide the alliance of nations opposed to Iran’s nuclear ambitions before the next round of negotiations over the programme — was swiftly dismissed by the United States.

“It’s a clever ploy, but it’s not a substitute for Iran’s responsibilities to the IAEA,” said the state department spokesman, Mr Philip J. Crowley, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been locked in an increasingly tense standoff with the Iranian government over its enrichment of uranium.

“It won’t draw international attention away from the issues regarding Iran’s nuclear programme,” Mr Crowley added, noting that its enrichment activities violated six United Nations Security Council resolutions. The European diplomats said the invitation was not likely to be accepted, if at all, until after the next round of negotiations, expected to be held in Istanbul at the end of January.

“This is something that in principle could be interesting, but not before the next round of talks,” said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the confidential deliberations. “This seems like Iranian tactics: they would like to put up a smokescreen and link things that can’t be linked.” Reuters quoted Mr Mehmanparast, the Iranian spokesman, as saying the invitation was for a visit on January 15-16 — before the scheduled negotiations in Istanbul between Iran and world powers including the United States.

The Iranian letter was sent to Russia, China, members of the European Union, and other countries. The United States would normally be included in such a group, as it negotiates with Iran, along with the other permanent members of the Security Council — Britain, France, Russia and China — as well as Germany. “There’s no invitation in our in-box,” Mr Crowley said. The US has assembled a coalition to impose sanctions on Iran, unilaterally and through the United Nations. But Russia and especially China still maintain commercial ties with Iran, and they have voiced reluctance about further tightening the economic vise on Tehran. The AP, citing an unidentified diplomat, said Iran was offering access to sites at Natanz and Bushehr, as well as meetings with two top officials involved in the programme: Ali Salehi, the acting foreign minister who oversees it, and Saeed Jalili, the chief nuclear negotiator.

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