Iran grants UN inspectors access to nuclear site


Iran has granted UN nuclear inspectors access to a reactor under construction after blocking visits for a year, and has let them upgrade monitoring at another site ahead of a crucial report on its atomic programme.

Iran allowed International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials to inspect the site of the Arak heavy water reactor last week, diplomats said.

The agency has been urging Iran to grant it access to verify it is for peaceful uses only.

Diplomats also said Iran had allowed IAEA monitoring at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant to be upgraded.

The IAEA is due to circulate its latest report on Iran next week.

The US, Britain, France and Germany are expected to urge Russia and China in talks on September 2nd to consider a fourth round of UN sanctions on Iran and the latest IAEA report will help form the basis for the discussions.

“We must welcome every effort from Iran because we have been asking them to co-operate with the IAEA and they have not been doing so,” one European diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

But he added that it was still unclear if Tehran’s concessions were a one-off.

Another diplomat questioned Iranian intentions. “Look at it in context. Iran stonewalls for a year and then allows access right before the IAEA is to issue its report,” the western diplomat said.

The new head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, appointed last month, is seen by analysts as a mild-mannered politician in favour of resolving Iran’s nuclear row with the West through talks.

Mr Salehi said last month the Islamic state and the West needed to renew efforts to build mutual trust and end a dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Iran, which says its nuclear programme is peaceful, has said the Arak complex will be geared to producing isotopes for medical care and agriculture.

But western powers fear Iran may configure the reactor to derive plutonium from spent fuel rods as an alternative source of bomb-grade fuel to its Natanz plant, which is under daily IAEA surveillance.