IRAN: U.N. nuclear chief arrives in Iran
The head of the United Nations nuclear enforcement agency arrived in Tehran today to negotiate a timetable for when international inspectors will be allowed to enter an underground uranium enrichment plant Iran had kept secret for years.
In a meeting with world powers this week in Geneva, Iran, which is facing growing Western pressure over its nuclear program, pledged to grant inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency access to the plant within weeks. The facility is expected to house 3,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium and complement the nation’s main nuclear plant at Natanz.
What Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, hears from Iranian officials during his two-day visit will indicate how much Tehran is prepared to cooperate with U.N. inspectors. The U.S., along with France and Britain, has threatened new sanctions against Iran if inspectors are not given full access to the unfinished plant, lodged in a mountain near a military base outside the holy city of Qom.
The West says Iran is intent on producing atomic weapons. Iran says its program is to generate energy for civilian use. Tehran has misled IAEA inspectors for years and has defied U.N. orders to stop enriching uranium. ElBaradei has said that Iran violated U.N. laws by not notifying inspectors when it began constructing the new plant more than three years ago.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, told reporters upon his return Friday night from the Genenva talks that “within the framework of the IAEA and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the nuclear watchdog will be allowed to inspect the [new] nuclear site as it has been the case with the Natanz nuclear facility.”
He added: “Iran believes the talks were constructive because they were based on cooperation and common interests.”
In his address today to the Union of Islamic Radio and Television Networks in Tehran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said President Obama's recent accusations that Iran was hiding its second uranium enrichment plant amounted to a "broadside on Iran."
“In the nuclear issue, you saw how Mr. Obama committed a big historical mistake," said Ahmadinejad. "We had declared our new nuclear programs to the IAEA ahead of schedule and the U.S. government must have been informed of through its IAEA ambassador. We don’t know how Mr. Obama had not kept abreast of this affair and he fine-tuned his calls with two of his allies to launch a broadside on Iran. Mr. Obama claimed Iran had been involved in secret nuclear activities while his allegations proved to be basically untrue."
Ahmadinejad added: "I believe that nuclear, chemical and biological arsenals are just a plot to deceive people. The main arsenal of the arrogant powers is their media arsenal. They fabricate a lie and they repeat it so many times until it is recognized as a document.”
-- Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo
Photo: Mohamed ElBaradei. Credit: Associated Press