Iran allows IAEA to inspect new enrichment site

Saturday, April 24, 2010

TEHRAN - Iran will allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect its new enrichment site in Natanz in central Iran, the Iranian envoy to the IAEA said Saturday.

Ali-Asqar Soltanieh told ISNA news agency that Iranian and IAEA experts met in Vienna and agreed on inspections of the new site, where Iran is pursuing the 20 percent uranium enrichment process.

The Iranian envoy said that the inspections will take place within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), indicating that the IAEA would be obliged to coordinate the inspections in advance with Tehran.

Iran withdrew from the IAEA Additional Protocol, under which the IAEA could have made snap inspections, in 2005.

Soltanieh said that any changes in Iran’s nuclear projects would be in coordination with the IAEA, adding that he hoped that the UN nuclear watchdog would reflect this new instance of cooperation in its next report.

Iran started the 20 percent uranium enrichment process in Natanz in February after a plan brokered in October by the IAEA - under which Iran would swap its low-enriched uranium (LEU) for fuel made in Russia and France for a medical reactor in Tehran - failed.

Tehran said that it would still be ready to accept the deal but only with the condition that the swap be made inside Iran. The IAEA and world powers have so far rejected the Iranian condition.

Although the uranium exchange deal would not have fully settled the dispute over Iran’s controversial nuclear projects, it was regarded by both sides as a first step towards ending the seven-year deadlock.

The US and its allies are pushing towards renewed sanctions against the Islamic state through a new UN Security Council resolution. They accuse Iran of not fully cooperating with the IAEA.

China and Russia, both strategic partners of Iran, have also reportedly changed their attitude towards new sanctions and may join the West in punitive measures.

Tehran has in response begun what it calls “active counter-diplomacy” with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki due to visit Austria - currently a rotating member of the UN Security Council - Sunday and hold talks with officials in Vienna about the nuclear dispute and probable sanctions.

Mottaki is also scheduled to meet IAEA chief Yukiya Amano over the weekend.

The Iranian chief diplomat is reportedly due to visit other European capitals though no details have yet been disclosed about host countries.

On Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in Uganda, another current Security Council member. He sought the African country’s vote against possible sanctions.

Iran insists that all its nuclear projects are solely for civil and peaceful purposes and has rejected accusations by world powers that it is working on a secret military programme and possible nuclear weapons’ research.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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