TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A U.N. team visiting Iran has no plans to inspect the country’s nuclear facilities and will only hold talks with officials in Tehran, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said
The remarks by Ramin Mehmanparast cast doubt on how much the U.N. inspectors would be able to gauge whether Iran is moving ahead with its suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The two-day visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency team, which started Monday, is the second in less than a month amid growing concerns over alleged Iranian weapons experiments.
It comes amid military exercises that Tehran says are preparations for defense of sensitive sites including nuclear facilities, and alongside a statement by a senior Iranian commander that Iran is ready to launch pre-emptive strikes against its enemies if it feels that it is in danger.
Iran says its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes only, such as power generation.
Western countries say Tehran aims at developing weapons technology, and the U.S. and Israel say they have not ruled out military action against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Mehmanparast said the visiting IAEA team was made up of experts, not inspectors. He told reporters that the IAEA team was holding discussions Tuesday in Tehran to prepare the ground for future cooperation between Iran and the U.N. watchdog. He said this cooperation is at its “best” level.
“The titles of the members of the visiting delegation is not inspectors. This is an expert delegation. The purpose of visit is not inspection,” said Mehmanparast. “The aim is to negotiate about cooperation between Iran and the agency and to set a framework for a continuation of the talks.”
Visits to individual Iranian nuclear sites were also not part of the IAEA earlier visit three weeks ago.
But on Monday, Iranian state radio said the U.N. team had asked to visit the Parchin military complex outside Tehran, a known conventional arms facility that has been suspected as a secret weapons-making location and also to meet Iranian nuclear scientists involved in the country’s controversial program
“Iran’s cooperation with the (IAEA) agency continues and is at its best level,” added Mehmanparast.
Also Tuesday, the deputy head of Iran’s armed forces said that Tehran is ready to take pre-emptive action against its foes if it feels that it is in danger.
“We do not wait for enemies to take action against us,” Gen. Mohammed Hejazi, who heads the military’s logistical wing, was quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency as saying. “We will use all our means to protect our national interests.”
Iran said the day before that it was starting air defense war games to practice protecting nuclear and other sensitive sites, the latest in a series of military maneuvers viewed as a message to the West that Iran is prepared both to defend itself against an armed strike and to retaliate.
The official news agency IRNA said the four-day air defense war games, dubbed “Sarallah,” or “God’s Revenge,” were taking place in the south of the country and involve anti-aircraft batteries, radar, and warplanes. The drill will be held over 73,000 square miles (190,000 square kilometers) near the port of Bushehr, the site of Iran’s lone nuclear power plant.
Iran has held multiple air, land, and sea maneuvers in recent months as the tensions increase.