As UN nuclear inspectors arrive, Iran says 'questions will be answered'
The three-day visit could shape the direction of Western efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran says is only for peaceful purposes.
Iran Sunday declared itself optimistic about a UN experts' visit aimed at probing suspected military aspects of its nuclear work and lawmakers postponed debate on a proposed halt to oil flows to the European Union watched closely in energy markets.Skip to next paragraph
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A team of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors began a three-day visit to try to advance efforts to resolve a row about nuclear work which Iran says is for making electricity but the West suspects is aimed at seeking a nuclear weapon.
Tensions with the West rose this month when Washington and the European Union imposed the toughest sanctions yet in a drive to force Tehran to provide more information on its nuclear program. The measures take direct aim at the ability of OPEC's second biggest oil exporter to sell its crude.
The Mehr news agency quoted Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying during a trip to Ethiopia: "We are very optimistic about the outcome of the IAEA delegation's visit to Iran ... Their questions will be answered during this visit,"
"We have nothing to hide and Iran has no clandestine [nuclear] activities."
Striking a sterner tone, Iran's parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, warned the IAEA team to carry out a "logical, professional, and technical" job or suffer the consequences.
"This visit is a test for the IAEA. The route for further cooperation will be open if the team carries out its duties professionally," said Mr. Larijani, state media reported.
"Otherwise, if the IAEA turns into a tool [for major powers to pressure Iran], then Iran will have no choice but to consider a new framework in its ties with the agency."
Iran's parliament in the past has approved bills to oblige the government to review its level of cooperation with the IAEA. However, Iran's top officials have always underlined the importance of preserving ties with the watchdog body.
Before departing from Vienna, IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts said he hoped the Islamic state would tackle the watchdog's concerns "regarding the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program."
Parliament debate postponed
Less than one week after the EU's 27 member states agreed to stop importing crude from Iran from July 1, Iranian lawmakers were due to debate a bill later Sunday that would cut off oil supplies to the European Union (EU) in a matter of days.
Iranian lawmakers postponed discussing the bill.
"No such draft bill has yet been drawn up and nothing has been submitted to the parliament. What exists is a notion by the deputies which is being seriously pursued to bring it to a conclusive end," Emad Hosseini, spokesman for parliament's Energy Committee, told Mehr.
"Some MPs had an idea that should be studied by the energy committee before being drafted as a bill. We hope our discussions will be finished by Friday."
Embargo would hit refiners
By turning the sanctions back on the EU, lawmakers hope to deny the bloc a six-month window it had planned to give those of its members most dependent on Iranian oil - including some of the most economically fragile in southern Europe - to adapt.