Iran agrees to international inspections for new enrichment site

Iran said it had always planned on allowing the IAEA to inspect a recently disclosed uranium enrichment site. Separately, it announced plans to hold missile defense drills to test its military capabilities.

The head of Iran's atomic organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, told Iranian state television on Saturday, Sept. 26, that "there will be an inspection in due time," without mentioning a date.

World | 17.09.2009

"Whatever we did was within the legal framework and in line with all IAEA regulations," Salehi said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) required Iran to notify them about any new nuclear plant six months before it became operational. Salehi said that he had let them know about the plant well in advance of the deadline: the new site isn't due to go online before the end of 2010.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards also announced on Saturday plans to hold missile defense drills over several days beginning on Sunday. Their website said the exercises would include simultaneous firings of missiles at targets. A statement quoted by Iranian news agencies named the purpose as "maintaining and improving the deterrent capability of the armed forces."

UN urges Iran to cooperate

United Nations Secretary Ban Ki Moon, who met the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday evening in New York, had urged Tehran to implement relevant Security Council resolutions and to co-operate with the IAEA on resolving concerns related to its nuclear activities.

Ahmadinejad, however, insisted that his country had done nothing wrong.

"It is not a secret site," he told reporters at a news conference in New York.

US President Barack Obama and a host of European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, made clear their doubts that the new facility was strictly for the peaceful generation of energy.

Playing with an open hand

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Obama said it was time for Tehran to put its cards on the table. "I think Iran is on notice that, when we meet with them on Oct. 1, they are going to have to come clean and they are going to have to make a choice."

He said he had not ruled out military action, but that he preferred to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also criticized Iran, saying that the revelation increased existing doubts about its nuclear program.

The head of Iran's atomic organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, told Iranian state television on Saturday, Sept. 26, that "there will be an inspection in due time," without mentioning a date.

"Whatever we did was within the legal framework and in line with all IAEA regulations," Salehi said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) required Iran to notify them about any new nuclear plant six months before it became operational. Salehi said that he had let them know about the plant well in advance of the deadline: the new site isn't due to go online before the end of 2010.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards also announced on Saturday plans to hold missile defense drills over several days beginning on Sunday. Their website said the exercises would include simultaneous firings of missiles at targets. A statement quoted by Iranian news agencies named the purpose as "maintaining and improving the deterrent capability of the armed forces."

UN urges Iran to cooperate

United Nations Secretary Ban Ki Moon, who met the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday evening in New York, had urged Tehran to implement relevant Security Council resolutions and to co-operate with the IAEA on resolving concerns related to its nuclear activities.

Ahmadinejad, however, insisted that his country had done nothing wrong.

"It is not a secret site," he told reporters at a news conference in New York.

US President Barack Obama and a host of European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, made clear their doubts that the new facility was strictly for the peaceful generation of energy.

Playing with an open hand

Obama said it was time for Tehran to put its cards on the table. "I think Iran is on notice that, when we meet with them on Oct. 1, they are going to have to come clean and they are going to have to make a choice."

He said he had not ruled out military action, but that he preferred to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Three of the world's most powerful men are worried by Iran's nuclear ambitions

French President, Nicolas Sarkozy said Iran was "taking the world down a dangerous path" and he threatened sanctions by the end of the year if the Iranian leadership did not change its nuclear course.

Angela Merkel called on Ahmadinejad to explain the new facility. She said Germany, like France, Britain and the US was "deeply concerned" about the plant, which violated the requirements laid down by the UN and the IAEA.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also criticized Iran, saying that the revelation increased existing doubts about its nuclear program.

Six major world powers - Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and the United States - are meeting Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Geneva next week for talks on ways to allay those doubts.

Meanwhile, the head of Iran's nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, has said that construction of the second plant was necessary in order to ensure continued uranium enrichment in the event of foreign air raids on other sites.

Speaking on Iranian television, he said "considering the threats, our organization decided to do what is necessary to preserve and continue our nuclear activities." He added that they would not stop their nuclear activities "at any cost."

Inspections expected

Bird's eye view of Iran's Natanz nuclear facility

Prior to this week, Iran's only known enrichment facility was at Natanz, near the central city of Isfahan.

Europe and the US said they believe that the scale of the new plant is such that uranium could be enriched to far higher levels than at Natanz, possibly to weapons-grade. The US president said that he expects IAEA inspectors “to immediately investigate this disturbing information and to report to the IAEA board of governors."

The IAEA said on Friday that Iran had sent a letter on Monday confirming that it was indeed constructing the facility.

Iranian state news agency ISNA reported that Tehran had told the Vienna-based agency the plant would produce nuclear fuel with an enrichment level of only up to 5 percent - insufficient for use in nuclear weapons.

svs/tkw/Reuters/dpa/AFP

Editor: Toma Tasovac