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Iran agrees to discuss nuclear bomb allegations with the IAEA

The UN nuclear agency will visit Tehran in two weeks when Iranian officials will reportedly consent to face allegations that they have been working on a bomb for years.

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Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C, waving) is welcomed today by Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño (2-R), upon arrival at the Simon Bolivar Base in Guayaquil. (CAMILO PAREJA/AFP/Getty Images)

Diplomats in Vienna are reporting today that Iranian officiuals have agreed to meet a UN nuclear agency team in Tehran to discuss allegations that the Islamic Republic has for years engaged in a secret program to build a bomb, according to The Associated Press.

Such a move would represent a reversal of Iran's position of more than three years during which it refused to cooperate with UN attempts to verify US and other countries' allegations that it is building nuclear weapons. The news comes amid rising tensions between Iran and Western countries seeking to impose punitive sanctions targeting the nation's crucial oil industry in reaction to the alleged military objectives of its nuclear program

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Contacted by the AP, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's chief delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, declined to say what would be discussed when the IAEA visits Tehran on Jan 28.

The concession follows a recent offer by Iran to return to talks on its nuclear program with Germany and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. However it also occurs in the middle of an increasingly fraught and tense context: the U.S. has imposed sanctions on the Iranian central bank and European countries have agreed in principle to impose an oil embargo. In response, Iran has threatened to block oil exports out of the Strait of Hormuz.

An Iranian nuclear scientist was recently assassinated. Iran has also announced that it will execute an American convicted of spying there.

In November, the IAEA had stated for the first time ever that some of Iran's nuclear activity could only have military ends, according to the AP. The claim came after the IAEA summarized all of its findings and drew on over 1,000 pages of intelligence reports.

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The US State Department also announced today that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had imposed sanctions on three companies found to have engaged in prohibited trade with Iran, including a Chinese company, Zhuhai Zhenrong Company, which is Iran's largest supplier of refined petroleum. The two other companies were energy traders in Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.

All three are now barred from receiving US export licenses, US export financing and loans of over $10 million from US banks.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120112/after-years-iran-agrees-discuss-bomb-allegations-the-iaea