UN nuclear experts arrived in Tehran in a push to probe Iranian nuclear sites suspected of making atomic weapons. Prior to the visit, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a legally binding decree calling the building of such weapons a “sin.”
Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency are hoping to “finalize a structured approach,” outlining what they can and cannot do during an investigation of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Progress on the IAEA’s investigations into Iranian nuclear sites ground to a halt a year ago.
A fatwa, or religious decree, issued by Iran’s supreme leader prohibiting the assembly of nuclear weapons is legally binding for the government, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said ahead of possible progress in talks over the country’s nuclear program.
“There is nothing higher than the exalted supreme leader’s fatwa to define the framework for our activities in the nuclear field,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast announced on Tuesday. “When the highest jurist and authority in the country’s leadership issues a fatwa, this will be binding for all of us to follow.”
Last year, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced that Tehran would never seek nuclear arms capabilities, as possessing nuclear weapons was a “grave sin” and “useless, harmful and dangerous.”
Western governments and international agencies including the International Atomic Energy Agency accuse Iran of developing weapons of mass destruction. The agency demands access to the Parchin military base southeast of Tehran in order to inspect it.
The agency has already visited Parchin twice, but IAEA experts believe that since the last visit in 2005, Tehran has tested elements of its nuclear weapons program there.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano expressed optimism about progress in the negotiations to arrange another visit to Parchin.“We are aiming to finalize a structured approach,” he said ahead of another IAEA trip to Tehran. “We hope to be allowed to go to Parchin.”
Mehmanparast’s comments also come ahead of a new round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of nations which include Russia, France, the US, China, Britain and Germany, on its disputed nuclear program.
The date of the next round of talks has not yet been announced.
Washington and its allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge, saying that as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency it is entitled to develop nuclear technology strictly for peaceful purposes.