UN nuclear inspectors visit Iran site

Iran and six major world powers are slated to meet Monday in Vienna to discuss implementation of an interim nuclear deal

Iran's Arak heavy water production facility has been the subject of intense scrutiny in the country's nuclear program.
Hamid Forutan/EPA

Iranian state TV reported that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, visited the heavy water production plant that Iran agreed to open to inspection last month.  

The Sunday report quotes Behrouz Kamalvandi, Iran's nuclear spokesman, saying the two inspectors are at the Arak plant, some 150 miles southwest of Tehran.

Last month Iran agreed to allow expanded U.N. monitoring at the country's nuclear sites, including the Arak site where plans for commissioning a plutonium reactor have been suspended under a separate interim deal reached with world powers.

The U.S. and its allies fear that Iran may be trying to develop a nuclear weapon, a charge Tehran denies.

Click for the latest analysis on diplomacy with Iran.

Experts from Iran and the six major powers overseeing the interim nuclear agreement will meet Monday in Vienna to discuss its implementation with U.N. inspectors, an Iranian negotiator said.

"On Monday, we will have another expert-level meeting with the six countries and (EU foreign policy chief Catherine) Ashton's team," Iran's lead negotiator Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying Sunday by the ISNA news agency.

Representatives from the IAEA, which is supervising the implementation of the agreement, will also be present, he said.

In November, Iran and the so-called P5+1 — the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany — reached a historic agreement in which Tehran is to curb its controversial nuclear activities in exchange for limited sanctions relief.

The accord was aimed at buying time for a comprehensive agreement to reassure Western nations that Iran's nuclear program will not develop atomic weapons. Tehran has always insisted its program is entirely peaceful.

Although recent negotiations have shown signs of unprecedented progress on the nuclear issue, U.S. President Barack Obama cautioned Saturday against overoptimism (PDF) at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan think thank.

"If you asked me what is the likelihood that we're able to arrive at the end state that I was just describing earlier, I wouldn't say that it's more than 50/50. But we have to try," the president said. 

The IAEA does not have a permanent presence in Iran but regularly inspects several sensitive nuclear sites.

Araqchi said Iranian banking and sanctions experts would also be present at the meeting, adding that several such meetings will be held over the next six months "so that the Geneva deal can hopefully achieve its objectives."

Under the six-month interim deal, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment to the 5 percent level required for civilian power plants.

It also agreed to dilute or oxidize its entire supply of 20 percent enriched uranium, which is a major source of concern in the West because it is much closer to the more than 90 percent level required for a weapon.

In return, the P5+1 agreed to some $7 billion of temporary and reversible sanctions relief, while leaving the bulk of sanctions — including crippling limits on Iran's oil and banking sector — in place.

Wire services

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