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Iran tries charm to counter Israel remarks
Facing continued criticism for its president's call for Israel's destruction, Iran launched a charm offensive Sunday by proposing resumed nuclear talks with Europe, saying it allowed U.N. inspectors to visit a sensitive military facility and pledging to boost relations with former enemy Iraq.
Still, Tehran's diplomatic spat with Italy over the anti-Israel remarks worsened, with Rome warning Iran it risked isolating itself from the international community by denying the "right to exist to another state and other people."
Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent call for Israel to be "wiped off the map" has increased international pressure against Iran. It also overshadows a crucial Nov. 24 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors, which threatens to refer Tehran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions over its controversial nuclear program.
On Sunday, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, tried some damage control, calling for resumed negotiations on the program with Britain, Germany and France, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.
Talks collapsed in August after Tehran rejected an incentives package in return for permanently ending uranium enrichment, which it voluntarily suspended in 2004 under a deal with the Europeans.
Larijani sent letters to the embassies of the three countries and called "for constructive and logical negotiations in the framework of respective conventions and regulations of International Atomic Energy Agency," IRNA said.
He also reiterated Iran's right to continue its nuclear activities in line with international treaties, such as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Earlier, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters that Iran had let IAEA inspectors visit the Parchin military site about 20 miles southeast of Tehran. U.S. officials say that site may be part of Iran's nuclear arms research program.
"They had visited Parchin before (but) this time they asked to visit other areas of the site," said Asefi, adding the experts also met senior Iranian nuclear officials. "What they have done in Iran has been in the framework of the NPT."
The visit took place during the inspectors' weeklong trip
to Iran that began Oct. 28. Inspectors wanted to make further checks of
radioactivity in buildings and areas inside the sprawling military complex.
Their last site visit in January revealed no such traces.