Iran ‘very optimistic’ over nuclear expert visit

Iran said it was very optimistic over a visit by UN nuclear inspectors aimed at shedding light on suspected military aspects of Tehran’s atomic work, but suggested Tehran would curb cooperation if the experts became a “tool” for outside powers.

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team began a three-day visit to try to advance efforts to resolve a row about nuclear work which Iran says is for making electricity, but the West suspects is aimed at seeking a nuclear weapon.

Tensions with the West rose this month when Washington and the EU imposed the toughest sanctions yet in a drive to force Tehran to provide more information on its nuclear programme. The measures take direct aim at the ability of OPEC’s second biggest oil exporter to sell its crude.

The Mehr news agency quoted foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi: “We are very optimistic about the outcome of the IAEA delegation’s visit to Iran . . . Their questions will be answered during this visit.

“We have nothing to hide and Iran has no clandestine (nuclear) activities.”

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani warned the IAEA team to carry out a “logical, professional and technical” job or suffer the consequences. “This visit is a test for the IAEA. The route for further cooperation will be open if the team carries out its duties professionally.

“Otherwise, if the IAEA turns into a tool (for major powers to pressure Iran), then Iran will have no choice but to consider a new framework in its ties with the agency.”

IAEA deputy director general Herman Nackaerts hoped for Iran to tackle the watchdog’s concerns “regarding the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme”.

A week after the EU’s 27 member states agreed to stop importing crude from Iran from July 1, Iranian lawmakers were debating a bill that would cut off oil supplies to the EU in a matter of days. By turning the sanctions back on the EU, lawmakers hope to deny the bloc a six-month window it had planned to give those of its members most dependent on Iranian oil — including some of the most economically fragile in southern Europe — to adapt.

The head of the state-run National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) said on Saturday the export embargo would hit European refiners, such as Italy’s Eni, that are owed oil from Iran as part of long-standing buy-back contracts under which they take payment for past oilfield projects in crude.

“The decision must be made at high echelons of power and we at the NIOC will act as the executioner of the policies of the government,” Ahmad Qalebani told the ISNA news agency.

“The European companies will have to abide by the provisions of the buyback contracts. If they act otherwise, they will be the parties to incur the relevant losses and will subject the repatriation of their capital to problems.”

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