(Updates with comment by Salehi starting in third paragraph.)
Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) -- International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors arrived in Tehran today for talks on Iran’s nuclear program while lawmakers drafted a ban on oil sales to Europe.
“We are looking forward to the start of a dialogue, a dialogue that’s overdue,” Chief Inspector Herman Nackaerts, who’s heading the six-member IAEA team, said in comments cited on the website of state-run Press TV. The delegation will stay in the country for three days, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
Iran has been at loggerheads with western countries over accusations that the country is using its nuclear program as a cover for developing weapons, a charge the government denies. European Union foreign ministers agreed on Jan. 23 to ban Iranian oil imports starting in July and freeze the assets of the country’s central bank, the latest in a series of sanctions by the United Nations, U.S. and EU.
Iranian lawmakers responded by drafting legislation that calls on the government to halt oil exports to Europe as long as the import ban is in place. The bill would also require Iran to block imports from countries participating in the EU ban, Nasser Sodani, deputy head of the parliament’s energy commission said yesterday, according to the Fars news agency.
The draft was submitted to the parliament’s energy commission for review, state-run Mehr news agency reported, citing commission spokesman Emad Hosseini. The measure must be discussed with the government before it is formally proposed to the parliament, he said.
Prepared to Cut Supply
“Given our previous search for new customers, we are as of now prepared to cut our oil supplies to Europe,” Ahmad Qalebani, managing director of National Iranian Oil Co., said today, according Oil Ministry website Shana.
Salehi said he is “very optimistic” about the IAEA team’s mission, which will include visits to some of the country’s nuclear sites.
“Right from the beginning we have indicated explicitly that Iran has never ever been after nuclear weapons,” Salehi said in Addis Ababa, where he is to take part in an African Union summit. said. “There is nothing dubious or ambiguous in our peaceful activities.”
The IAEA has confirmed that Iran hasn’t used its declared uranium stockpile to make weapons. However, in November it cited “credible” sources as saying that Iran has studied how to make a nuclear bomb.
Iran, which is under four sets of UN sanctions, has said that documents in the IAEA’s possession are forged. The government has in the past refused to address the nuclear- weapons allegations until it is allowed to examine the evidence.
‘Case to Answer’
“We have requested Iran to engage with us to clarify the decisions,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 27. “Iran has a case to answer.”
Iran will do “confidence building” with the agency and discuss its concerns about the safety of nuclear scientists, Mehdi Mehdizadeh a member of the parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, told Press TV.
Iran accuses the U.S. and Israel of targeting Iranian atomic scientists in an effort to halt Iran’s nuclear program. Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a deputy director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in Isfahan province, was killed in a Tehran bombing on Jan. 11, the fourth prominent Iranian scientist to die in similar attacks, Iran says.
Iranian officials say that the IAEA has failed to protect the identity of some of its experts and they say that Roshan had recently met with the agency’s inspectors. The IAEA says it doesn’t know Roshan and didn’t release his name.
--With assistance from William Davison in Addis Ababa. Editors: Ross Larsen, Paul Jarvis.
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