VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Friday Iran had agreed to allow inspectors to visit its Arak nuclear plant following talks on how to resolve outstanding questions about Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.
Senior officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran held talks this week in Tehran on an “action plan” to address remaining IAEA doubts about its nuclear work.
Tehran rejects charges that it is not cooperating fully with U.N. inspectors. Iran, which concealed sensitive facilities for nearly two decades, says it has no more atomic secrets and that its nuclear program is for purely peaceful ends.
The IAEA said in a statement it had also agreed with Tehran to finalize in early August a plan for monitoring the Natanz uranium enrichment plant and to clear up all its questions about the country’s past plutonium experiments.
Diplomats welcomed the announcement of the Arak inspection, which the IAEA said would take place before the end of July.
“It is definitely positive that the agency inspectors can visit the site,” one said. “This is good news.”
“It is only a very first step, but a first step is better than nothing, although we will have to see where all this is going to get us,” a second Western diplomat said.
Iran says its Arak research reactor, due for completion in 2009, will make isotopes for medical and other peaceful uses, replacing an older 1970s light-water reactor in Tehran.
But Western powers fear that Tehran wants to use plutonium, a byproduct of production at the Arak heavy-water reactor, for the core of nuclear warheads.
Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, confirmed inspections would take place at Arak while adding that Iran saw completion of the reactor as its undeniable right, Iran’s official IRNA news agency said.
Last year the IAEA’s governing board rejected Iran’s request for technical aid for Arak. In April, Iran stopped providing advanced design information on planned nuclear sites like Arak.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed two rounds of sanctions since December on Iran for failing to halt enrichment, a process which can produce fuel for power plants or material for warheads. A third sanctions resolution is being considered.
additional reporting by Mahsa Aminelahi in Tehran