U.N. to inspect Iran nuclear plant this month

IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei
United Nations inspectors will visit Iran’s recently disclosed nuclear power plant on October 25, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency announced Sunday from Tehran.

“It is important for us to send out inspectors to do comprehensive verification … to assure ourselves that it is … fit for peaceful purposes,” Mohamed ElBaradei said. Iran sent shock waves through the international community recently when Tehran wrote a letter to the IAEA revealing the existence of a nuclear enrichment facility near the city of Qom. The Islamic republic says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, but the United States, among others, fear the country aims to build nuclear weapons. ElBaradei urged Iran to submit to more comprehensive inspections because its nuclear program is so advanced. “It would help the agency to have Iran subscribing again to our regulations that allow us to be informed of the construction of nuclear facilities as early as possible,” he said. He also pressed Iran to give the IAEA “the authority for more information, for access to more locations that would enable the agency to provide assurances not only about declared nuclear activity in Iran but also about possible undeclared activities.” And ElBaradei said progress was being made on Iran’s request for enriched uranium to help treat cancer patients. Iran will sit down with the United States, Russia and France on October 19 at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, to discuss that request, he said. A deal on that front could be important because it could reduce the amount of nuclear fuel Iran has to make a bomb. Under the agreement, Iranian low-enriched uranium — not weapons-grade material — would be sent abroad and enriched further before being sent back for use in Iranian medical research, ElBaradei said. European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana had said on Thursday that world powers and Iran agreed in principle “that low-enriched uranium produced in Iran would be transported to third countries for further enrichment and fabrication into fuel assemblies for the Tehran research reactor, which produces isotopes for medical applications.”

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ElBaradei was cautiously optimistic in his remarks, praising last week’s meeting between Iran and world powers about the country’s nuclear program. “We need transparency on the part of Iran,” he said. “We need cooperation on the part of the international community. We are at a critical moment. We are shifting gears from confrontation into transparency and cooperation.” Top officials from the United States and Iran huddled on the margins of talks on Iran’s nuclear program in Geneva on Thursday. Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili met with William J. Burns, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, a senior U.S. official and a diplomatic source confirmed to CNN. The men discussed Iran’s nuclear program, a sit-down described as the first face-to-face meeting between the U.S. and Iran over the program. International powers want inspectors to have free access to Iran’s new facility and have threatened more sanctions if the Islamic republic doesn’t change its ways.