IAEA and Iran agree on reactor inspections


Vienna : Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have reached agreement on visits by IAEA inspectors to Iran’s heavy-water reactor at Arak, currently under construction, the IAEA said Friday.

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One of several agreements reached during a visit by IAEA Deputy Director General Olli Heinonen to Tehran on July 11-12, IAEA inspectors will be allowed to visit Arak by the end of July. The UN nuclear watchdog was denied access to the site after Iran unilaterally cancelled an inspection agreement with the IAEA.

“During the visit, agreement was reached on the designation of new agency inspectors; a visit of agency inspectors to the heavy-water research reactor at Arak by the end of July 2007; and the finalization of the safeguards approach at the fuel-enrichment plant at Natanz during early August 2007,” the statement said.

The IAEA and Iran had been debating how to safeguard Natanz, and whether installation of cameras was an option.

In Teheran, delegation head Javad Vaeidi, deputy of the National Security Council said on Thursday: “We have reached good results and gone beyond the prologue phase and will definitely continue the talks in the future.”

Heinonen termed the talks “positive and harmonious” and hoped they would be continued in order gradually to settle all relevant issues.

Following a meeting between IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei and Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in Vienna in June, Iran vowed to draw up a work plan in order to resolve outstanding issues related to its controversial nuclear programme.

Iran also agreed on ways to resolve questions regarding plutonium experiments conducted by the country in the past and Iran’s uranium-enrichment programme.

“In addition, agreement was reached on the modalities to resolve remaining issues regarding Iran’s past plutonium experiments.

“It was agreed that Iran and the agency will subsequently embark on clarifying the open issues associated with the scope and content of Iran’s enrichment programme, including uranium contamination found on equipment at a specific location, as well as studies related to specified projects,” the statement said.

Meetings in Vienna in July and in Tehran in August were scheduled to discuss these issues further.

Since December the UN Security Council has passed two sets of sanctions against Iran for its refusal to stop uranium enrichment, with a third resolution under consideration.

Enriched uranium is used for producing fuel for power plants, but if enriched to a higher degree it is building material for nuclear weapons. Iran, which kept its nuclear programme hidden from the IAEA for 18 years, denies any charges it was secretly pursuing a weapons programme.

Iran’s readiness to increase cooperation with the IAEA raises hope for a diplomatic solution to the issue. However, in order to fully cooperate, Iran still insists its file be removed from the Security Council’s agenda.