Iran nuclear crisis: UN inspectors arrive in Tehran

Chief IAEA inspector Herman Nackaerts talks to reporters at Vienna airport on 20 February 2012 Chief IAEA inspector Herman Nackaerts said he hoped for "some concrete results" from the trip

UN nuclear inspectors have arrived in Tehran for the second time in a month to discuss Iran's nuclear programme.

Chief inspector Herman Nackaerts said his team's "highest priority" was to clarify the "possible military dimensions" of the nuclear programme.

But he cautioned that progress "may take a while".

Iran insists it is enriching uranium to use for power generation, but Western nations believe the programme is geared towards making weapons.

Tensions have risen over speculation that Israel may carry out a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

US national security adviser Tom Donilon arrived in Israel at the weekend for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials.

But the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, warned on Sunday that it was still unclear whether Iran was at a stage to assemble a nuclear bomb.

"On that basis, I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us," Gen Dempsey said.

'New developments'

Last week Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took part in an elaborate ceremony to unveil new developments in his country's nuclear programme.

Tehran said it had used domestically-made nuclear fuel in a reactor for the first time, as well as developing faster, more efficient uranium enrichment centrifuges.

State TV showed the president inspecting the fuel rods as they were loaded into a reactor.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) during a tour of Tehran's research reactor (February 15, 2012) Iranian media showed President Ahmadinejad (at right) at a ceremony to unveil "new developments" in Tehran's nuclear programme

The IAEA inspectors described their last visit, in January, as positive, and said Iran was "committed" to "resolving all outstanding issues".

Mr Nackaerts said on Sunday that he hoped to have a "couple of good and constructive days in Tehran".

"Importantly we hope for some concrete results from the trip. The highest priority remains of course the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme, but we want to tackle all outstanding issues," he said.

"This is of course a very complex issue that may take a while. But we hope it can be constructive".

The inspectors' evaluation of their visits may form part of the next written report on Iran's nuclear programme, expected later in February.

But last November, the IAEA said it had information suggesting Iran had carried out tests "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device".

That information led to a decision by the US and the European Union to tighten sanctions against Iran, including measures targeting the country's lucrative oil industry.

Iran said on Sunday it had halted oil sales to British and French companies ahead of an EU oil embargo set to begin on 1 July. Analysts say the gesture of retaliation is largely symbolic.

On Monday, the head of Iran's national oil company said the ban might be extended to other EU members that continued "hostile acts" against Iran.

Ahmad Qalehbani said exports to Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Germany and the Netherlands could be stopped, semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

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