UN nuclear inspectors to go to Iran

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are to go to Iran “as early as practicable” to resolve issues over Tehran’s nuclear programme, the UN nuclear watchdog said Monday.The announcement followed talks between IAEA Director General Mohammad Al Baradei and Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Larijani, who flew into Vienna on Sunday, IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said in a statement.

“Larijani invited the IAEA to send a team to Tehran to develop an action plan for resolving outstanding issues related to Iran’s past nuclear programme,” she said.

“The IAEA intends to send a team as early as practicable.” The announcement came as Britain and the United States are reportedly planning to put forward proposals at the UN Security Council to intensify two sets of existing sanctions targeting Iran’s nuclear programme.

The new measures would include travel bans, the freezing of bank accounts and inspections of Iranian cargo ships and aircraft.

The West fears Iran’s nuclear programme is aimed at producing nuclear weapons. Tehran insists that its ambitions are strictly peaceful, but stands accused of failing to fully cooperate with UN inspections.

Monday’s announcement followed talks Saturday in Lisbon between Larijani and the European Union’s foreign policy supremo Javier Solana.

“We have had a very constructive meeting, and we will meet again in three weeks’ time,” Solana told reporters after the four-hour meeting at the Portuguese foreign ministry. “We will continue on this path.” Larijani said he had had a “good conversation” during his second meeting with Solana in less than a month, adding: “I think it is possible to lay the ground for negotiations.” Last Thursday, Baradei called on Iran to declare a moratorium on expanding uranium enrichment, after a four-day IAEA meeting dominated by concern about the Islamic republic’s intentions.

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