Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors who arrived in Tehran yesterday to clarify aspects of Iran’s nuclear program may extend their stay, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said, according to IRNA.
The delegation planned “a three-day mission, but their stay can be extended if they wish,” Salehi said in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported today.
The IAEA visit and the possibility of renewed nuclear talks with western powers have “created a new atmosphere,” said Salehi, who is in Addis Ababa for an African summit, according to IRNA. Salehi said yesterday that he is “optimistic about the outcome of the team’s visit to Iran.”
The visit comes amid growing tensions between Iran and western nations, which say the Persian Gulf country is using its nuclear program as a cover for developing weapons. Iran rejects the allegation, saying it needs the technology for power generation and medical research.
European Union foreign ministers agreed on Jan. 23 to ban Iranian oil imports starting in July and to freeze the assets of the country’s central bank, the latest in a series of sanctions by the United Nations, the U.S. and the EU. Iran had warned that it may retaliate by disrupting shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, a conduit for 20 percent of global oil.
Salehi told reporters yesterday the IAEA team will visit to some of Iran’s nuclear sites, without naming the facilities.
Iran began to produce uranium enriched as much as 20 percent in the Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant, near the holy city of Qom, the IAEA said earlier this month. The start of enrichment activities at the site, which is built into the side of a mountain south of Tehran, aroused western suspicions.
Chief Inspector Herman Nackaerts, who’s heading the six- member IAEA team, said before arriving in Iran that he is looking forward to the start of “a dialogue that’s overdue.”
Though the Vienna-based IAEA says Iran hasn’t used its declared uranium stockpile to make weapons, it has cited “credible” sources as saying the country has studied how to make a nuclear bomb. Iran, which is under four sets of UN sanctions, has said documents in the IAEA’s possession are forged. The government has historically refused to address the nuclear-weapons allegations until it’s allowed to examine the evidence.
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