Iran agrees to wider inspection of nuclear sites


Tue, Nov 12, 2013 - Page 7

Iran yesterday agreed to allow expanded UN monitoring at the country’s nuclear sites, including at a new reactor, state TV reported, in a deal that could boost wider negotiations over Tehran’s atomic program.

The deal was struck during talks in Tehran with UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano as part of a parallel initiative to the broader efforts underway to ease Western concerns that Iran could one day develop nuclear weapons, an assertion Iran denies.

The promise to grant wider access to UN nuclear inspectors could help push forward talks between Iran and world powers, which failed to reach a deal over the weekend, but are scheduled to resume next week in Geneva, Switzerland.

The so-called “roadmap” described by Iran’s state TV would give the inspectors from the IAEA access to a key uranium mine and the site of a planned heavy water reactor, which uses a different type of coolant than regular water and produces a greater amount of plutonium byproduct than conventional reactors.

During the weekend talks in Geneva between Iran and six world powers, France insisted that more controls were needed on the planned reactor in the central Iranian city of Arak.

Plutonium can be used in nuclear weapons production, but separating it from the reactor byproducts requires a special technology that Iran does not currently possess.

Yesterday’s deal also could open room for even wider inspections, but no details were given.

“The practical measures will be implemented in the next three months, starting from today,” Amano said in a news conference in Tehran.

Noticeably absent from the announcement was mention of the Parchin military facility southeast of Tehran.

The agency has sought to revisit the site to investigate suspicions that explosive tests were carried out related to possible nuclear triggers. Iran denies the allegations, but has resisted opening the base.

The IAEA-Tehran talks were always a separate, but related, initiative to the international negotiations with Iran over its controversial nuclear program. Those broader negotiations ended without agreement this time around in Geneva.

Meanwhile, the Iranian press yesterday rounded on France and French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius, after reports emerged he scuttled a deal in the nuclear negotiations in Geneva over the weekend.

“France ruined its image in Geneva,” where talks between Iran and world powers sunk after Fabius expressed dissatisfaction with a draft text of an agreement, the English-language Tehran Times said.

According to the government-run daily, Iranian businessmen have decided to “review their relations” with their French counterparts and find “a more trustworthy partner.”

For Donya-e Eqtesad, the largest business daily, France was “the big loser of the Geneva talks.”

Reformist daily Etemad agreed in an editorial titled the “Non-diplomatic attitude of France,” saying: “Should there be an agreement, France will certainly be the losing party.”

Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif, the country’s chief nuclear negotiator, has refrained from naming France as the party preventing an agreement.

“It was possible to reach an agreement with most of the members of [world powers], but ... one of the delegations had a little problem,” he said on his Facebook page.

“Mr Fabius, we will not forget,” wrote the Haft-e-Sobh daily, claiming that Internet-savvy Iranians had stormed his Facebook page.

Additional reporting by AFP