Iran seeks to allay Gulf nuclear concerns with unusual invitation
TEHRAN - Iran's nuclear chief said Wednesday experts from Arab neighbours across the Gulf, concerned about the safety of Iran's sole nuclear power plant, are welcome to visit the facility, IRNA news agency reported.
"We are ready for the visit of nuclear experts of Persian Gulf countries to Bushehr nuclear power plant," Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying when asked how Tehran would tackle their worries.
Gulf Arab countries have often raised concern over Bushehr's reliability and the risk of radioactive leaks in case of a major earthquake, as well as a possible military dimension to Iran's nuclear drive.
"We... again express our readiness, for consultation between our country's experts and the experts from Persian Gulf countries, so that they can hold scientific and technical talks on the Bushehr power plant's safety issues," Salehi said.
The nuclear chief also suggested establishing a regional nuclear cooperation body so that "all these doubts will be addressed scientifically."
Bushehr, which produces 1,000 megawatts, came into service in 2011 after several delays blamed on technical problems. Iranian engineers took complete control of it in September.
Iran has said it aims to produce 20,000 megawatts of electricity from nuclear power, which would necessitate building 20 such reactors.
Western powers and Israel suspect the Islamic republic's nuclear programme masks a covert weapons drive. Tehran denies that, saying it is entirely for peaceful purposes.
President Hassan Rouhani also reiterated that Iran has never sought nuclear weapons.
"In regards to peaceful nuclear technology, we have never sought nuclear weapons and will never do so," IRNA quoted him as saying.
Iran and major world powers clinched a historic nuclear deal in November, which was hailed by the six Gulf Arab monarchies as a first step toward an inclusive and lasting agreement that would end international concerns.
Under it, Tehran agreed to curb parts of its nuclear drive for six months in exchange for modest sanction relief and a promise by Western powers not to impose new measures on its economy.