Iran Nuclear NewsIran to allow UN inspectors to visit atomic reactor

Iran to allow UN inspectors to visit atomic reactor

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Bloomberg: Iran will allow United Nations inspectors to visit a reactor under construction that could produce plutonium, the International Atomic Energy Agency said. By Brian Lysaght and Nick Allen

July 13 (Bloomberg) — Iran will allow United Nations inspectors to visit a reactor under construction that could produce plutonium, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

The agreement for an inspection of the heavy-water reactor at Arak later this month came during discussions this week in Tehran between Ali Larijani, Iran’s security chief, and Olli Heinonen, the UN nuclear agency’s deputy director-general. Iran and agency officials agreed to meet again in Vienna in July and in August in Iran.

The agreement was a possible sign of compromise by Iran which has been under investigation by the IAEA since 2003. Heinonen said yesterday that talks in Tehran had been “constructive.” The Islamic Republic, which holds the world’s second-largest oil and natural gas reserves, says its atomic activities are geared toward generating electricity. The U.S. says Iran seeks instead to develop an atomic bomb.

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Aliasghar Soltanieh, said the visit to the reactor would “take place soon” and “just one visit will be enough,” Agence France-Presse reported.

The next set of talks between the UN agency and Iran will be held on July 25 and 26, AFP said, citing Soltanieh.

“It was agreed that Iran and the agency will subsequently embark on clarifying the open issues associated with the scope and content of Iran’s enrichment program,” the IAEA said in a statement on its Web site.

UN Sanctions

Iran has refused to halt nuclear activities after the imposition of two sets of UN-sponsored sanctions since December. The UN Security Council is preparing for another round of sanctions, Group of Eight leaders said June 8 in Germany.

Negotiations have been continuing between IAEA inspectors and Iran since a June 22 accord between agency director general Mohamed ElBaradei and Larijani. IAEA inspectors want to draft a plan by next month to settle unanswered questions about Iran’s atomic program.

Iranian scientists are slowing the pace of uranium enrichment and installing fewer centrifuges at a fuel factory, ElBaradei said July 9 in Vienna.

On May 23, ElBaradei said the IAEA can’t guarantee the “exclusively peaceful nature” of Iran’s work. In the same month, IAEA inspectors said in a report that their knowledge of Iran’s program was “deteriorating.” Iran curtailed access to military and research sites last year after the IAEA sent the case to the Security Council.

Comprehensive Solution

ElBaradei has urged the U.S. and Europe to seek a comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear program that includes addressing Middle East security concerns and “normalization” of diplomatic relations between the Islamic Republic and the West.

The U.S. and Iran broke off diplomatic relations in 1980 after Islamic revolutionaries overthrew the government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and kept 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days.

Iran has as many as 2,000 centrifuges at its fortified underground enrichment plant in Natanz, ElBaradei said June 14. It has made significant strides in mastering the uranium enrichment process, he said. Centrifuges spin at high speeds, separating uranium isotopes that can be used to fuel nuclear power plants or arm an atomic weapon.

Iran will probably boost the number of centrifuges in operation at Natanz, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) south of Tehran, to 3,000 by the end of this month, ElBaradei said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said July 11 that Iran will not halt uranium enrichment.

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