Iran says it will allow U.N. to see nuclear site

Posted by sky Saturday, September 26, 2009

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran said Saturday it will allow U.N. nuclear inspectors to examine its newly revealed, still unfinished uranium enrichment facility as world criticism mounted over the underground site that was developed secretly.

The presence of a second uranium-enrichment site that could potentially produce material for a nuclear weapon has provided one of the strongest indications yet that Iran has something to hide - despite its repeated assertions that its program is only to generate power.

That impression was reinforced by a close aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said the site will be operational "soon" and would pose a threat to those who oppose Iran.

"This new facility, God willing, will become operational soon and will blind the eyes of the enemies," Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani told the semi-official Fars news agency.

The existence of the secret site was first revealed by Western intelligence officials and diplomats on Friday. It is located in the arid mountains near the holy city of Qom, inside a heavily guarded, underground facility belonging to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, according to a document sent by the Obama administration to lawmakers.

President Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy accused Iran on Friday of constructing a secret underground uranium enrichment facility and of hiding its existence from international inspectors for years.

Just hours before Iran said it would allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of the site, Obama warned Tehran of grave consequences from a united global front and offered "a serious meaningful dialogue" over its nuclear program.

The White House responded to Iran's offer of inspections by urging Iran's complete and immediate cooperation with the IAEA.

Obama said in his address that evidence of Iran's building the underground plant "continues a disturbing pattern of Iranian evasion" that jeopardizes global nonproliferation.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the revelation was firm proof Iran was seeking nuclear weapons.

"This removes the dispute whether Iran is developing military nuclear power or not and therefore the world powers need to draw conclusions," Lieberman told Israel radio. "Without a doubt, it is a reactor for military purposes not peaceful purposes."

Israel considers Iran a strategic threat because of its nuclear program, missile development and repeated references by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Israel's destruction.

Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads Iran's nuclear program, said on national television that inspectors from the IAEA could visit the site, though he did not specify when.

Salehi said there was nothing secret about the site and that Iran complied with U.N. rules that require it to inform the world body's nuclear agency six months before a uranium enrichment facility becomes operational.

"Under [NPT] rules, we are required to inform the IAEA of the existence of such a facility 180 days before introducing materials but we are announcing it more than a year earlier," he said.

The Iranians claim to have withdrawn from an agreement with the IAEA requiring them to notify the agency of the intent to build any new nuclear facilities and instead are now only subject to the six-month notification requirement before a facility becomes operational.

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