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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Nuclear Inspectors to Tour Iran's Second Enrichment Plant Near Qom

By Edward Yeranian
24 October 2009

A team of U.N. inspectors is heading to Iran to visit a recently revealed nuclear site. International Atomic Energy Agency experts will examine an unfinished uranium enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom to verify it is for peaceful purposes.

Iran's English-language Press TV reports that International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors are beginning a three-day visit to Iran, Saturday, to examine the country's Fordoo nuclear enrichment facility.

Existence of the underground facility - first revealed in September - raised international suspicion over the extent and aim of the country's nuclear program.

US President Barack Obama warned Iran, at the time, that it would face "increased pressure" if it failed to reveal all of its nuclear activities.

The Iranian News Network (IRINN) says that the UN inspectors will spend two or three days in Iran to complete their inspections of the new facility, which is still under construction.

The Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, says that Tehran is allowing the UN inspectors to visit the Fordoo enrichment facility to "prove Tehran's good will" and to reassure the world community of its "peaceful nuclear activities."

Iran's primary nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz has continued to operate since 2007, despite sanctions by UN Security Council.

IAEA chief Mohammed al-Baradei rebuked Iran for not disclosing the existence of the Fordoo plant. The international community is worried that Tehran is planning to install a new generation of sophisticated centrifuges to enrich uranium at a much faster pace.

The US and other Western powers are wary of Tehran's nuclear intentions, and suspect that Tehran ultimately intends to produce nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.

Friday, Tehran delayed its response to a proposal made by the US, France and Russia to further enrich Tehran's existing stockpile of low-grade uranium.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Asgar Soltaniyeh, told Iran's Press TV that Tehran will respond to the offer, next week, but that Tehran also expects the world powers to examine its own counterproposals for enriching uranium:

"We are also waiting for the other parties to study our proposals and to reflect the results of their evaluation," he said. "At the same time, we have, in fact, started studying the draft proposal, and we are in fact working and elaborating on all details of these proposals, from technical aspects and all other dimensions, and I will inform the director general of the IAEA next week, as soon as I'm back to Vienna, about our evaluation."

U.S. officials indicated that they're prepared to wait a few more days for an Iranian response to the nuclear proposals, but that the Obama administration expects concrete action and does not have unlimited patience.

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