Friday, October 14, 2005

Iran says welcomes foreign nuclear investment

Iran, at the centre of global concerns about its nuclear programme, welcomes foreign investment in the sector, the country's foreign minister said on Friday during an official visit to China.

Iran is one step away from a referral to the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear programme, which Tehran says is peaceful despite U.S. and European fears the country could use it for developing atomic weapons.

"We are willing to allow all countries, within the framework of the U.N., to allow their state-owned and private companies help develop Iran's nuclear programme," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters in Beijing, speaking in Farsi through a Chinese translator.

That would include European companies, he later told Reuters. READ MORE

"We have very good economic relations with European countries," he said in English after a news conference.

Diplomats said this week that a team from the U.N. nuclear watchdog was in Tehran for talks on gaining better cooperation from Iran before the United States, France, Britain and Germany push to refer it to the U.N. Security Council.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei has demanded better access to sites, documents and individuals in the IAEA's investigation of whether Iran's nuclear programme is peaceful as Tehran says it is, or a front for making nuclear weapons as Washington charges.

The IAEA's board of governors passed a resolution last month requiring that Iran be reported to the highest U.N. body at a later, unspecified date over fears it aims to make atomic bombs.

Mottaki stressed again Tehran's stance that it opposed nuclear weapons proliferation, and said Iran's case was very different from North Korea.

"The issue with North Korea's nuclear programme is that the international community needs to resolve their goal of developing nuclear weapons," he said.
"On the other hand, the issue with Iran's nuclear programme is related to using nuclear technology in a peaceful way."

The United States once branded both Iran and North Korea part of an "axis of evil" along with pre-war Iraq.