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IAEA inspectors arrive in Tehran for talks on Iran's nuclear program

A team of UN inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived in Tehran on Monday, as Iran announced it would step up military protection of its nuclear sites.

Iran nuclear iaea BushehrEnlarge
The reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, 750 miles south of Tehran. (Majid Asgaripour/Getty Images)

A team of UN inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived in Tehran on Monday, Iran's semi-official news agency FARS reported

The team was expected to hold key talks over Iran's nuclear program, which the West claims is geared toward making weapons, a charge Iran denies.

Shorty after their arrival, Iran's Foreign Minister said they would not be allowed access to nuclear sites – while the military announced it had begun special drills to ensure the protection of Iranian nuclear facilities.

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No timetable or agenda has been given for the two-day visit, the second by an IAEA team in less than a month. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi reportedly told the Iranian Students' News Agency that the inspectors would not visit nuclear installations.

The Associated Press quoted Herman Nackaerts, deputy-director general of the IAEA and part of the team, as saying Sunday that he hoped for progress in the talks, but added that "his careful choice of words suggested little expectation the meeting would be successful."

"The highest priority remains of course the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program," Nackaerts told reporters.

The last attempt at holding talks, in Istanbul in January 2011, collapsed. This time round, however, Al Jazeera quoted Salehi as saying: "We are looking for a mechanism for a solution for the nuclear issue in a way that it is win-win for both sides." The foreign minister said his country was keen to quickly resume talks with world powers, although Tehran remained prepared for a "worst-case scenario."

Accordingly, Monday saw the launch of four days of anti-aircraft maneuvers in southern Iran, Agence France Presse reported. A statement from the Iranian military said the drills – which will involve missiles, artillery, radar and warplanes – are intended to "reinforce the coordination between the military and the Revolutionary Guards for a total coverage of the country's sensitive facilities, especially nuclear sites."

Speculation has been growing lately that Israel could attempt air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities. However, the US believes "it's not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran," according to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.

In an interview with CNN aired yesterday, Dempsey said US officials are not convinced Iran has decided to pursue nuclear weapons – and even if they had, many of their key nuclear installations are underground and therefore out of reach of an air attack.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120220/iran-nuclear-un-inspectors-tehran