Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began talks in Tehran on Monday with Iranian officials over the country’s disputed nuclear programme.

However, it was unclear whether the IAEA team, headed by Chief Inspector Herman Nackaerts, would be able to inspect actual nuclear facilities or be limited to technical discussions.

On Sunday, Iran announced it was stopping oil exports to French and British companies, in retaliation for European Union sanctions.

It was reported at the weekend that thousands of new centrifuges may be constructed at the Fordo site, near the holy city of Qom — where Iran has already started enriching uranium to 20 per cent.

Iran was also expected to inform the IAEA that the country was now able to produce its own fuel rods. However, Tehran was only to reveal information stipulated by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Western powers, and Israel, believe Iran to be developing nuclear weapon materials, a charge which Tehran denies.

Western diplomats said that Monday’s visit was based on an IAEA report last year indicating that Iran was carrying out projects geared to develop nuclear weapons.

On Sunday, Western diplomats in Vienna — the headquarters of the IAEA — told DPA that Iran’s nuclear engineers were nowhere near being able to actually operate new centrifuges at Fordo, even if there were plans to install them.

The IAEA confirmed last month that uranium enrichment to a level of 20 per cent had started at Fordo, which has not officially been inaugurated.

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