VIENNA, Austria, (AP) -Iran has invited an International Atomic Energy Agency team to Tehran to draw up a concrete plan for clearing up suspicions about its nuclear program, an IAEA spokeswoman said Monday.
Melissa Fleming said the invitation was issued by Ali Larijani, Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator, on Sunday during talks with IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei.
“Dr. Larijani invited the IAEA to send a team to Tehran to develop an action plan for resolving outstanding issues related to Iran’s past nuclear program,” Fleming said in a statement. “The IAEA intends to send a team as early as practicable.”
The United States and some of its allies fear that Iran is using its nuclear energy program as cover to for a weapons program. Iran says it simply want to produce electricity.
The talks Sunday were apparently agreed on short notice and came just a day after Larijani met with top EU foreign policy envoy Javier Solana for talks believed to have focused on Tehran’s recent offer to deal with outstanding questions about its nuclear activities.
Larijani and ElBaradei had already met Friday and the IAEA chief said afterward that the Islamic republic was ready to follow up on that offer by working out a concrete timetable with his agency’s experts on coming up with the answers sought by the U.N. nuclear agency.
Iran has said before that it was ready to cooperate with the IAEA on the issue of unexplained past activities that could be linked to a nuclear weapons program but has yet to deliver.
A diplomat familiar with Iran’s nuclear file, who demanded anonymity for discussing the confidential issue, told The Associated Press that the invitation to the IAEA to send a team was grounds for optimism that this time the Iranians would follow through.
The U.S. has allied with Britain, France and Germany in a four-year campaign to contain what they fear are Iranian ambitions to develop nuclear weapons.
Backed by U.N. Security Council resolutions, they demand Tehran abandon uranium enrichment, a process that can provide material for nuclear warheads. Iran insists it wants only to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity.
The United States’ support from permanent Security Council members Britain and France, in particular, has been key. The council has passed two sets of sanctions in the last half year against Iran in reaction to Tehran’s rejection of council demands for an enrichment freeze.