A team of senior UN nuclear officials could visit Iran
in January, the Islamic state's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency said.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh said on Thursday that Iran had renewed an invitation for an IAEA
team to travel to Tehran and he suggested Iranian officials would be ready to discuss international concerns about the country's nuclear program.
Preliminary arrangements for the visit would be made in the first week of January, he said.
"Any time after that, after the composition of the team is finalized, they are welcome to come. Therefore I assume that perhaps in January this visit will be made," Soltanieh said.
Iran's latest overture to the Vienna-based UN agency, which has long urged Tehran to address disputes about its nuclear agenda, coincides with a sharpening of international sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear work.
The Bushehr nuclear power plant (Photo: AFP)
Western diplomats tend to see such invitations as attempts by Iran, a major oil producer, to buy time and ease international pressure without heeding UN demands to curb activity that could be put to making atomic bombs and to be transparent about its program to ease misgivings about it.
One Western envoy this week dismissed Iran's new offer of talks as part of a "charm offensive" without any commitment from Tehran "to talk substance".
Iran insists it is enriching uranium solely for peaceful purposes, saying that its nuclear work is a peaceful bid to generate electricity so that it can export more of its oil and gas.
Western fears that Iran is seeking to develop atomic bomb capability were reinforced by a Nov. 8 IAEA report that said Tehran appeared to have worked on designing a nuclear weapon.
Iran initially invited Herman Nackaerts, IAEA deputy director general and head of nuclear safeguards inspections worldwide, in October. But Iran's angry reaction to the agency report the following month threw those plans into doubt.
Previous visits to Iran by senior IAEA officials have failed to make significant progress towards resolving the long-running row over Iran's nuclear programme, a dispute which has the potential to ignite a wider conflict in the Middle East.
IAEA inspectors monitor Iran's declared nuclear sites but their movements are otherwise restricted.