Iran has invited representatives of several nations to visit its nuclear installations this month, including Russia, China and the European Union, but has excluded the U.S. from the proposed trip, according to diplomats briefed on Tehran's correspondence.
The Obama administration and a number of European and Arab governments quickly dismissed Tehran's overture, saying they viewed it as an attempt by Iran to reduce mounting economic pressure aimed at curbing its nuclear program.
"A tour for some countries is not a substitute for sustained and transparent cooperation," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday. "Iran continues to be in violation of its international obligations and the international community won't be distracted by this ploy."
Two diplomats from EU countries said Monday their governments were unlikely to accept Tehran's invitation specifically because it is seen as an attempt to divide the international community. Rather, they said Tehran should be prepared to engage in serious discussions with the West and allow greater access to international inspectors from the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"Let's make sure nobody gives a hand to this…attempt at disguising opacity as transparency," said one of the European diplomats working on Iran.
The invitation for a visit to Iran by "high-ranking officials" on the weekend of Jan. 16-17 comes as the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S.—with Germany, prepare to hold a second round of talks with Iran aimed at curbing its nuclear work. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for late January in Istanbul.
An earlier round of talks in Geneva last month resulted in no signs that Iran may be willing to comply with Security Council resolutions and suspend its production of nuclear fuel.
U.S. and European officials have voiced concerns that Iran may seek to use the diplomacy to stave off more economic sanctions while Tehran continues to push forward with producing nuclear fuel at its Natanz uranium-enrichment facility in central Iran.