U.N. officials arrive in Iran to inspect new nuclear facility

<div data-recalc-dims=Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s Ambassador to the IAEA, greets the world’s media in Vienna on October 21.

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International officials arrived in Iran on Sunday to inspect a newly disclosed nuclear facility near the city of Qom, state media reported.

Tehran is studying the draft proposal and will have an answer next week, Iranian diplomat Ali Asghar Soltanieh said on state-run Press TV. Iran informed IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei that it is “considering the proposal in depth and in a favorable light, but it needs until the middle of next week to provide a response,” according to an IAEA statement. Delegations from Iran, France, Russia, the United States and the IAEA met in Vienna this week to work out details of the tentative deal reached in early October. And France, Russia and the United States indicated their approval of the arrangement. “The Director General hopes that Iran’s response will equally be positive, since approval of this agreement will signal a new era of cooperation,” the IAEA statement said. Tehran sent shock waves through the international community by revealing in a letter to the IAEA the existence of a second nuclear enrichment facility near Qom. “It is important for us to send out inspectors to do comprehensive verification … to assure ourselves that it is … fit for peaceful purposes,” ElBaradei said earlier this month. After the inspection, but before the end of the month, Iranian officials are expected to meet with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany to further discuss Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran’s leaders maintain that their nation’s nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes, but many in the West believe Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons capabilities. Low-enriched nuclear fuel can be further enriched into weapons-grade material.