United Nations experts will inspect Iran’s newly disclosed uranium enrichment plant on October 25, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohammed ElBaradei said on Sunday, praising a shift “from conspiracy to cooperation” in Tehran’s dealings with the West.
The underground nuclear fuel facility near the holy Shi’ite city of Qom was kept secret until Iran disclosed its existence last month, setting off an international furore.
Iran agreed with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany in Geneva on Thursday to allow IAEA inspectors unfettered access to the plant in central Iran.
“IAEA inspectors will visit Iran’s new enrichment facility, under construction in Qom, on 25th of October,” Dr. ElBaradei said at a joint news conference with Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi.
“It is important for us to have comprehensive cooperation over the Qom site ... It is important for us to send our inspectors to assure ourselves that this facility is for peaceful purposes.”
The West suspects the Islamic state is covertly seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists it needs the nuclear technology to generate power to meet booming domestic demand.
Dr. ElBaradei said the IAEA and Iran disagreed over the timing of the disclosure of the pilot enrichment plant.
“Iran should have informed the IAEA the day they decided to construct the facility,” he said, referring to an IAEA transparency statute that was tightened in 1992 to require immediate notification of planned nuclear facilities.
Previously a state had to alert the IAEA of a new site just six months before introducing nuclear materials into it.
But Mr. Salehi rejected this, saying: “Ever since the unfair entry of the U.N. Security Council into Iran’s nuclear dossier, we reverted to the old arrangement in protest at U.N. sanctions.”
He said he would discuss details of the inspection with the IAEA in Vienna on Oct. 19.
Iran has said the site, which has space for about 3,000 centrifuges, is about 18 months away from going on line.
Dr. ElBaradei said that remaining differences could be resolved through diplomacy. “The relation between Iran and the world powers is shifting from conspiracy to transparency and cooperation.”
The New York Times reported on Saturday that a confidential IAEA staff had concluded that Iran had acquired “sufficient information to be able to design and produce” an atom bomb.
Dr. ElBaradei said there was no “concrete proof” that Iran was seeking nuclear weapons capability but the IAEA remained concerned over the possibility.
Western officials said Iran had agreed “in principle” at Thursday’s meeting to ship out most of its enriched uranium for reprocessing in Russia and France. It would then be returned to power a Tehran reactor that makes medical isotopes.