Reuters: Iran has given U.N. nuclear inspectors operational records for its Natanz uranium enrichment plant, after months of refusing, in a move diplomats said appeared aimed at undermining Western calls for sanctions. By Louis Charbonneau
BERLIN (Reuters) – Iran has given U.N. nuclear inspectors operational records for its Natanz uranium enrichment plant, after months of refusing, in a move diplomats said appeared aimed at undermining Western calls for sanctions.
News of the development, confirmed to Reuters by three diplomats, comes a day before the U.N. Security Council is expected to vote on whether to put sanctions on Tehran.
“They’ve handed over the documents, the operation records. They’re being good guys at the moment,” a European diplomat said on condition of anonymity. “Perhaps they hope this will reduce support for sanctions, especially in Russia.”
Iran began enriching uranium at Natanz, a partly underground plant in central Iran, early this year. This prompted Germany, France and Britain — the “EU3” — to break off 2-1/2 years of talks aimed at persuading Iran to suspend enrichment, a process of purifying uranium for use as fuel in power plants or bombs.
The EU3 later joined forces with the United States, China and Russia to offer Iran incentives if it froze all nuclear fuel work, but Tehran rejected the offer.
The documents, given to the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), include details of Iran’s enrichment work since it began operations at Natanz, two diplomats said.
The IAEA needs to see the plant’s operational records to help it verify that no uranium has been diverted to secret facilities elsewhere in the country. Iran had refused to hand over the documents for months, the diplomats said.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has repeatedly criticised Iran for not cooperating completely with his inspectors. He says full transparency is necessary to verify Iran’s nuclear activities are peaceful as the Islamic republic insists is the case.
So far, the IAEA has been unable to rule out the possibility that Iran is secretly developing atomic weapons, as the United States and European Union suspect Tehran is doing.
In a further show of transparency, Iran has agreed to allow agency inspectors to take environmental samples of equipment from a former research institute at Lavizan-Shian, diplomats said. Samples are taken to test for traces of nuclear material.
“The IAEA is scheduled to take samples tomorrow, the day of the (expected) Security Council vote,” said another Western diplomat. “Let’s hope it actually happens.”
The IAEA took samples earlier this year from some equipment it believes was used at Lavizan but was not allowed to do follow-up sampling. The original samples tested positive for traces of highly enriched uranium.
The diplomats warned that if Germany and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — reach an agreement over the next few hours on a Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran, Tehran may once again reduce its cooperation.
“If the resolution on sanctions is passed, Iran might close some more doors to U.N. inspectors,” the second diplomat said.