The Tehran government confirmed yesterday that it has invited world powers and its allies in the Arab and developing world – but not its chief critics – to tour Iranian nuclear sites before a high-profile meeting late in January on its disputed nuclear programme.
A diplomat familiar with the invitation said the US, Britain, Germany and France were not invited in an apparent attempt to split the "six powers" ahead of planned talks on Iran's nuclear programme later this month.
An Iranian official said facilities to be visited include the nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz and the Arak site where Tehran is building a plutonium-producing heavy water reactor. Both facilities are considered suspect by the West because they could be used to make the fissile core of nuclear warheads; Tehran's refusal to shut them down has triggered UN Security Council sanctions.
The UN Security Council has demanded that Iran freeze uranium enrichment – a process that can produce both fuel and fissile warhead material. But Iranian negotiators flatly ruled out discussing such demands at the Istanbul meeting, Western diplomats familiar with the talks said.