Iran has invited a list of ambassadors from across the world to inspect its nuclear sites in an attempt to prove the "transparency" of its controversial programme.
The ambassadors invited to tour the country on January 15-16 include representatives of Russia and China, both permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and among the six states leading negotiations with Iran over the programme.
However, the other four, western members of the group - the United States, Britain, France and Germany - were not invited, leading to fears that the invitation is an attempt to divide the negotiators.
The State Department denounced the invitation. “We’ve seen these antics by Iran before,” spokesman Philip Crowley said. “Whatever the magical mystery tour Iran envisions, it is not a substitute for the need to transparently cooperate with the IAEA.”
Talks between the so-called “P5 plus 1” group, led by Baroness Ashton, the EU foreign affairs representative, and Iran are due to resume in Istanbul at the end of the month.
The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said a number of countries had been invited to visit a uranium enrichment facility in the city of Natanz and a heavy water facility at Arak to show “the goodwill of our country and the peaceful and cooperative nature of our (nuclear) activities.”
The countries include Egypt, Cuba and Hungary - the latter as the incoming holder of the rotating presidency of the EU.
It is not clear whether they would be shown anything not currently open to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes. Western countries say that the way it is set up only makes sense if Iran has a goal of building a nuclear weapon.
Telegraph Media Group Limited