IAEA cameras in Iranian uranium enrichment facility 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
TEHRAN - UN nuclear inspectors arrived in Iran on Sunday, hoping to shed
light on suspected military aspects of Tehran's atomic work, on the day
its lawmakers look set to ban oil exports to Europe in revenge for new
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency
delegation said he aimed to "resolve all the outstanding issues with
Iran" over the nuclear program which the West believes is aimed at
making weapons but which Iran insists is peaceful.
we hope that Iran will engage with us on our concerns regarding the
possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program," IAEA Deputy
Director General Herman Nackaerts told reporters before departing from
Iran insists its right to peaceful nuclear
technology be recognized by skeptical countries which say its uranium
enrichment activities - some of which have been moved to a bomb-proof
bunker - go beyond what is needed for atomic energy.
Tensions with the West rose this month when Washington and the European Union imposed the toughest sanctions yet
in their campaign to force Tehran into making concessions. The measures
take direct aim at the ability of OPEC's second biggest oil exporter to
sell its crude.
Less than one week after the EU's 27 member
states agreed to stop importing crude from Iran from July 1, Iranian
lawmakers were due to debate a bill later on Sunday 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.
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'EU companies to suffer from oil embargo'
The head of the state-run National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) said late on Saturday that 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.
EU accounted for 25 percent of Iranian crude oil sales in the third
quarter of 2011. However, analysts say the global oil market will not be
overly disrupted if parliament votes for the bill that would turn off
the oil tap for Europe.
"The Saudis have made it clear that they'll step in to fill the void," said Robert Smith, a consultant at Facts Global Energy.
would not pose any serious threat to oil market stability. Meanwhile
Asians, predominantly the Chinese and Indians, stand to benefit from
more Iranian crude flowing east and at potential discounts."
more disruptive to the world oil market and global security is the risk
of Iran's standoff with the West escalating into military conflict.
has repeatedly said it could close the vital Strait of Hormuz shipping
lane if Western sanctions succeed in preventing it from exporting crude,
a move Washington has said it would not tolerate.
three-day visit may be an opportunity to defuse some of the tension.
Director General Yukiya Amano has called on Iran to show a "constructive
spirit" and Tehran has said it is willing to discuss "any issues" of
interest to the UN agency, including the military-linked concerns.
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