Iran agrees to U.N. nuclear inspection

U.N. nuclear inspectors banned earlier this year by Iran from visiting a heavy water reactor will now be allowed to inspect it before the end of July, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday.

Iran agrees to U.N. nuclear inspection
In a further sign of Iranian compromise, the IAEA said the country also agreed to answer questions on past experiments that the international community fears could be linked to a weapons program.

The IAEA — the U.N.'s nuclear monitor — said Iran promised the concessions, including the inspection of the Arak reactor, in a meeting this week between its officials and a senior delegation from the Vienna-based agency.

Years of Iranian stonewalling have left the IAEA unable to ascertain the truth of the country's claims that it has no nuclear weapons ambitions and that its atomic activities are meant strictly to generate power. Its refusal to cooperate was the trigger that prompted U.N. Security Council involvement last year and led to two sets of sanctions.

Any Iranian decision to cooperate with the agency could weaken a push by the United States and Western allies on the council to impose new U.N. sanctions — even if Iran continues to defy the council's main demand that it freeze uranium enrichment.

In talks between Iranian officials and IAEA Deputy Director General Olli Heinonen, "agreement was reached on ... a visit of agency inspectors to the heavy water research reactor at Arak by the end of July," said am IEAE statement.

The two sides also agreed on how "to resolve remaining issues regarding Iran's past plutonium experiments," appointing new inspectors in the place of those banned by Iran earlier this year, finalizing ways of fuller IAEA supervision of uranium enrichment activities.

Remaining issues include "uranium contamination found on equipment at a specific location," said the agency, alluding to traces of enriched uranium at a military site — which could indicate links to a weapons program_ as "well as studies related to specified projects," again shorthand for nuclear work that could have military applications.

Key in any IAEA overview of Iran's nuclear activities is access to the Arak heavy water research reactor, because it will produce plutonium once completed sometime in the next decade.

Because plutonium and enriched uranium can be used as the fissile core of warheads, the Security Council demanded a stop not only to enrichment but also to construction at the Arak project. Also sought was full openness on more than two decades of nuclear activities that went undetected only until revealed by an Iranian dissident group four years ago.

Iran has refused both the demands on enrichment and stopping construction of Arak. A decision to lift its ban an allowing inspectors to tour the site would signal its readiness to again put a key component of its nuclear program under international purview after months of keeping it off limits.

At Natanz, site of Iran's enrichment program, IAEA inspectors have been allowed fairly broad access to approximately 2,000 centrifuges set up to spin uranium gas into enriched material. But the IAEA statement suggested Tehran was ready for more concessions there as well, saying a new meeting was planned in early August on "the finalization of the safeguards approach" at the facility.

Questions about plutonium experiments go back to the discovery by agency inspectors of secret experiments in the mid-1990s and their findings that not all plutonium Iran said it had possessed is accounted for.

Part of Iran's offer appeared to open the door for IAEA inspectors to look for fresh samples of enriched uranium at a site where earlier finds revealed traces that could have come from an undeclared program linked to the military.

And the Iranian pledge to be more open on "studies related to specific projects" appeared to allude to IAEA questions about the so-called "Green Salt Project."

Diplomats told the AP last year that the agency was acting on U.S. intelligence linking experiments connected to uranium enrichment with high explosives and warhead design — information previously dismissed by Iran as "based on false and fabricated documents."


Güncelleme Tarihi: 13 Temmuz 2007, 16:38