UN officials fly to Tehran for talks


VIENNA – UN nuclear inspectors headed to Iran yesterday for talks aimed at getting Tehran to start addressing their mounting concerns that it may be seeking to develop atomic bombs.

“We hope to have a couple of good and constructive days in Tehran,” Herman Nackaerts, deputy director general of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said at Vienna airport as the five-member team prepared to depart.

“The highest priority remains of course the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme,” he told reporters, making clear he wanted to see concrete results in the discussions with Iranian officials.

Western diplomats have played down any hopes of a major breakthrough in the February 20th-21st meetings, even though it comes just a few days after signs of a possible opening for diplomacy in the long-running nuclear dispute.

“I’m still pessimistic that Iran will demonstrate the substantive co-operation necessary,” one envoy said.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Iran’s letter to Baroness Ashton last week might mark a step forward. Iran’s letter to Ashton – who handles contact with Iran on behalf of the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – proposed resuming the talks and said Tehran would have “new initiatives to bring to the table”.

Meanwhile, Iran yesterday announced it was stopping selling crude to British and French companies in a retaliatory measure against fresh EU sanctions.

An oil ministry spokesman said Iran would now sell to its “new customers”. – (Reuters)