The invitation comes just weeks before Iran and the six powers follow up on recent talks that ended with
agreement on little else but to meet again [EPA]

Iran has invited Russia, China, the European Union and its allies among the Arab and developing world to tour its nuclear sites, in an apparent move to gain support ahead of a new round of talks with six world powers.

In a letter made available on Monday to The Associated Press, senior Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh suggests the weekend of January 15 and 16 for the tour and says that meetings "with high ranking officials" are envisaged.

"The representatives of some European Union countries,  Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and some representatives of the the five-plus-one (six world powers) have been invited to visit our nuclear sites," Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman told reporters.

The invitation comes just weeks before Iran and the six powers follow up on recent talks that ended with agreement on little else but to meet again.

The new round between Tehran, and the permanent UN Security Council members -- the US, Russia, China, Britain, France -- plus Germany, is tentatively set for Istanbul, Turkey in late January.

It is meant to explore whether there is common ground for more substantive talks on Iran's nuclear programme.

Diplomats from delegations at the table with Iran during the December talks in Geneva said Tehran made no commitments to talking about UN Security Council demands that it freeze uranium enrichment. And Iranian negotiators flatly ruled out discussing such demands at the Istanbul meeting.

US not invited

Dated December 27, the four paragraph letter offered no details beyond offering an all-expenses paid "visit to Iran's nuclear sites."

But a diplomat familiar with its contents said it was mailed to Russia, China, Egypt, the group of nonaligned nations at the IAEA, Cuba, Arab League members at the IAEA, and Hungary, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

The US, the greatest critic of Iran's nuclear strivings, was not among those invited.

China, and to a lesser degree Russia, have acted to dilute originally harsh sanctions measures proposed by the US and its Western allies on the Security Council, Britain and France, leading to compromise penalties enacted by the council that are milder than the West had originally hoped for.

The outreach to Moscow and Beijing represented by Tehran's offer to visit therefore appeared to be an attempt to exacerbate any differences between the Eastern and Western powers meeting the Iranians in Istanbul.

Source: Agencies