Sunday, October 25, 2009

U.N. Officials to Inspect the Newly Disclosed Facility

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Cable News Network (CNN)

International officials were scheduled to arrive in Iran on Saturday to inspect a newly disclosed nuclear facility near the city of Qom, state media reported. Inspectors from the United Nations nuclear watchdog -- the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) -- will visit the installation to make sure it is being used for peaceful purposes, said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency. The three-day visit comes after Iran said Friday that it needs more time to decide whether to sign onto a deal that could help end the international showdown over its nuclear activities. That proposal calls for low-enriched uranium produced in Iran to be sent abroad for further enrichment and then returned for use in medical research and treatment. 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 recently 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," IAEA chief Mohamed 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.