IAEA Officials Head to Iran Seeking Cooperation on Nuclear Issue

Sources says the visit will not involve inspections of nuclear facilities but rather on resuming talks on Iran's disputed nuclear program.

Officials from the United Nations nuclear agency departed for Iran on Saturday for talks aimed at allaying concerns that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon.

"We are looking forward to start with a dialogue, a dialogue that is overdue since very long," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief inspector Herman Nackaerts said before boarding a plane in Vienna, where the agency is based.

Herman Nackaerts Jan. 28, 2012 (Reuters)

"In particular we hope that Iran will engage with us on our concerns regarding the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program," added Nackaerts, who is heading the team along with Rafael Grossi, a top advisor to IAEA director Yukiya Amano.

Iran has said it will cooperate with the IAEA team during their three-day visit but indicated it would not give up uranium enrichment, which it considers a sovereign right.

"We have always been open with regards to our nuclear issues and the IAEA team coming to Iran can make the necessary inspections," Ali-Akbar Velayati, advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told the ISNA news agency.

"We will however not withdraw from our nuclear rights as we have constantly acted within international regulations and in line with the laws of the non-proliferation treaty," said Velayati.

There has been speculation in Iran that the IAEA team might be allowed to visit the Fordo uranium enrichment facility south of the capital Tehran, which will become operational next month.

However, sources close to the Vienna-based IAEA said the visit would not involve inspections of nuclear facilities but would focus on resuming talks on Iran's disputed nuclear program, which the West suspects has a military dimension.

Iran has since 2008 declined to fully cooperate with the IAEA and denies it is seeking a nuclear bomb.

The visit could pave the way for the resumption of the talks between Iran and world powers Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. The last round of talks in January 2011 ended without a breakthrough.