Sunday, October 4, 2009

IAEA plans inspection of Iran's formerly secret uranium enrichment facility

News that Iran has actually scheduled a team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect a formerly secret uranium enrichment facility being built near Qom appears to be a clear signal that the Islamic republic has changed course and decided to cooperate with the world community on nuclear proliferation. Iran agreed last week to permit inspectors to tour the underground facility, which previously had been kept secret in violation of IAEA notification requirements, according to the Reuters international news service. "IAEA inspectors will visit Iran's new enrichment facility, under construction in Qom, on 25th of October," said Mohammad ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency said at a news conference with Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's nuclear effort. "It is important for us to have comprehensive cooperation over the Qom site. It is important for us to send our inspectors to assure ourselves that this facility is for peaceful purposes." Details of the inspection will be worked out at a meeting on Oct. 19, Reuters said. Western nations believe Iran is covertly developing nuclear weapons and has imposed a series of international trade sanctions against the country to force it to end or curtail its program. Tehran insists its nuclear work is aimed at the peaceful development of nuclear power for electricity, even though Iran's underground oil reserves are among the world's largest. But Iran has not exactly been truthful over the years, probably because of suspicions about the United States, which it regards, along with Israel, as its enemy. So, the disclosure of the secret facility caused an international furor culminating in last week's meeting in Geneva between Iran and the world's six strongest military and economic powers -- the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. The plant is not expected to be operational for 18 months. The Geneva meeting, at which Iran also agreed to send most of its nuclear material to France and Russia for processing, was the highest-level diplomatic contact between the United States and Iran since the 1979 revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed Shah and brought religious leaders to power. U.S. President Barack Obama's top adviser on national security, James Jones, said Iran did not appear to be closer to having a nuclear weapon, contradicting a New York Times report on Saturday that a separate IAEA assessment had concluded Iran's program had advanced sufficiently to begin building a nuclear weapon.

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