Iran: Nuclear plant ‘will blind … the enemies’

Iranian soldiers are shown in the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, 300 kms south of Tehran, in 2006.
Tehran’s new uranium enrichment plant will be operational soon, and “will blind the eyes of the enemies,” Iran’s semi-official news agency Fars reported Saturday, quoting a senior Iranian official.

Also Saturday, the head of Iran’s atomic energy program said U.N. nuclear experts would be allowed to inspect the plant, according to a report from Iran-funded Press TV. Ali Akbar Salehi, the atomic energy chief, said a date would be arranged for such an inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but offered no other details. Tehran on Friday acknowledged the existence of a second uranium enrichment facility near the Shia Muslim holy city of Qom. The announcement came ahead of a planned meeting October 1 between Iran and the five permanent United Nations Security Council members, plus Germany. “God willing, this plant will be put into operation soon, and will blind the eyes of the enemies,” the senior official, Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, said in a written statement from Fars. Golpayegani heads the office of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. On Monday, Iran — in a letter to the IAEA — revealed the existence of the underground facility on a military base near Qom, the IAEA said. Qom is about 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of Tehran. Iran told the IAEA there was no nuclear material at the site, an agency spokesman said. U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday accused Iran of violating international agreements, and said other nations oppose Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, fearing the country is planning to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has said its nuclear energy will only be used for peaceful, civilian purposes. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters Friday that Iran met IAEA requirements by informing it about the plant at least six months before it begins operating. He said it would be 18 months before the plant comes on line. He also told CNN’s Larry King that Obama’s accusations that Iran’s nuclear program had run afoul of international agreements were “baseless.” Watch Ahmadinejad hit back at Obama “We did not expect Mr. Obama within less than 48 hours, to basically violate the commitment that he spoke of at the United Nations,” said Ahmadinejad. The Iranian leader was referring to Obama’s Wednesday speech to the U.N. General Assembly, where Obama called for international unity in attacking the world’s challenges. Asked if he was expressing disappointment in the U.S. president, Ahmadinejad responded, “We simply didn’t expect him to say something that was … was baseless.” Earlier Friday evening Obama said “Iran is on notice” regarding its nuclear efforts. “They are going to have to make a choice: Are they willing to go down the path to greater prosperity and security for Iran, giving up the acquisition of nuclear weapons … or will they continue down a path that is going to lead to confrontation,” he said at a news conference at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Also Saturday, the Web site of the Iran Student News Agency (ISNA) carried comments from an Iranian legislator who warned Western nations not to make Iran regret its cooperation with the IAEA.

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“Western countries and the U.S. must not make Iran regret its cooperation with the IAEA beyond its legal obligations,” said Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chief of the Iran Parliament Commission for National Security and Foreign Policy. He said Western criticism of Iran’s new facility was an “illogical and unrealistic” smear campaign, noting that Iran announced the project earlier than IAEA regulations require. The U.S. president said the conclusions about Iran’s nuclear ambitions came as a result of the work of three intelligence agencies — those of Britain, France and the United States. The work, Obama said, was done “to make sure that we were absolutely confident about the situation there.” The United States has known about the unfinished site since the Bush administration, according to senior U.S. officials who declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations. French intelligence officials were also aware of the facility for several months at least, a U.S. diplomatic source said. It wasn’t until Monday that Iran wrote a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency, revealing the existence of the underground facility on a military base near the Shia Muslim holy city of Qom. The facility is thought to be capable of housing 3,000 centrifuges, which is not enough to produce nuclear fuel to power a reactor but is sufficient to manufacture bomb-making material, according to a U.S. diplomatic source who read the letter. Iran told the IAEA there was no nuclear material at the site, an agency spokesman said. Once Iran alerted the IAEA, Obama began sharing U.S. intelligence on the nuclear site with allies, particularly with Russia and China in an effort to get those countries on board with new sanctions against Iran, the officials said. The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Friday that Iran admitted the existence of the “new pilot fuel enrichment plant,” prompting Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to respond at the G-20 economic summit. “Iran’s decision to build yet another nuclear facility without notifying the IAEA represents a direct challenge to the basic compact at the center of the nonproliferation regime,” Obama said, with Brown and Sarkozy standing at his side. Watch world leaders react to Iran Iran claims its nuclear enrichment program is intended for peaceful purposes, but the international community accuses it of continuing to try to develop nuclear weapons capability. Dissidents discuss Iran enrichment plants

Iran had acknowledged only a uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, which nuclear inspectors visited recently. Iran also has an unfinished nuclear research reactor in Arak, and U.N. nuclear inspectors were allowed access to that facility this month. Other important nuclear sites in Iran include its Bushehr nuclear power plant and the Isfahan uranium conversion plant. Map: Iran’s nuclear sites