Iran’s atomic energy chief on Wednesday invited delegates from Persian Gulf states to visit the Iranian nuclear power plant at Bushehr as a trust-building gesture between the Islamic Republic and its Arab neighbors.
Ali Akbar Salehi said Tehran was prepared to hold expert-level talks with Gulf nations to discuss the safety of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear power plant, Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency reported. He further called for the formation of a Persian Gulf Nuclear Cooperation Organization to allay regional concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.
The announcement by Salehi came less than a week before a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers reached in November was set to take effect. Iranian reformers and moderate conservatives welcomed an agreement reached Monday between Tehran and the P5+1 nations on how to implement a the deal, saying it would shore up Iran’s sanctions-hit economy.
The six-nation group — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — and Iran agreed to start implementing the terms of the interim deal on January 20. That will start a six-month clock for a final deal to be struck over Tehran’s contested nuclear program.
Gulf states have voiced concern over Iran’s program, which Tehran contends is for exclusively peaceful purposes, but which its neighbors and the West fear may be used to develop nuclear weapons.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday reiterated Tehran’s denial that its nuclear program seeks to develop a bomb, saying that if it were the case, Iran wouldn’t be negotiating with world powers at all.
“As stated explicitly in the fatwa (religious decree) issued by Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] Iran is not after the production and storing of the nuclear bombs [because] when a country seeks bomb, it works secretively and doesn’t negotiate,” the semi-official Fars News Agency quoted Rouhani saying.