Iran - Arak heavy water production facility.
(photo credit: AP Photo/Fars News Agancy)
TEHERAN, Iran— Seven international envoys got a look inside an Iranian nuclear site Saturday for a tour that Teheran hopes will build support before a new round of crucial talks with world powers on its disputed atomic activities.
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Iran is trying to sell the tour as a gesture of transparency ahead of the Jan. 20-22 talks in Istanbul, Turkey. In a blow to the effort, however, key powers Russia, China and the European Union refused the Iranian invitation. The EU said it should be up to inspectors from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency to verify whether Iran's program is entirely peaceful.
Iran's offer pointedly did not include the United States, one of its biggest critics internationally, and many saw the tour as an attempt to divide the nations conducting the nuclear talks.
Ambassadors to the UN atomic agency from Egypt, Cuba, Syria, Algeria, Venezuela, Oman and the Arab League arrived in Teheran early Saturday and visited the unfinished heavy water reactor near Arak in central Iran, state TV reported.
The group was expected later to tour the uranium enrichment facility near Natanz.
The US and some of its allies accuse Iran of using its civil nuclear program as a cover to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Iran has denied the accusation, saying its nuclear work is merely geared towards producing nuclear energy and isotopes to treat medical patients.
To support that assertion, Iran planned to announce two nuclear-related medical achievements during the visit, said Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's nuclear chief and the country's acting foreign minister. He did not elaborate.
With crucial talks between Iran and six world powers in Istanbul just days away, the timing of the nuclear tour and the choice of nations invited appeared to be an attempt to weaken unity among Iran's interlocutors.