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UN Nuclear Watchdog Sees Turning Point Over Iran

This article is more than 9 years old.

The head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog on Sunday described a "shifting of gears" in the controversy over Iran's nuclear program and said inspectors would visit the country's new uranium processing site Oct. 25.

Mohamed ElBaradei spoke in Tehran following talks with Iranian officials over the recently revealed facility that has caused consternation around to world over the extent and purpose of Iran's nuclear program.

"I see that we are at a critical moment, I see that we are shifting gears from confrontation into transparency and cooperation," said Elbaradei as he announced the new inspection date.

"I hope and trust Iran will be helpful with our inspectors so it is possible for us to be able to assess our verification of the facility as early as possible," he added, while sitting next to Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's nuclear program.

The revelation that Iran has been building a new nuclear plant near the holy city of Qom has heightened the concern of the U.S. and many of its allies, which suspect Tehran is using a civilian nuclear program as a cover for developing a weapons-making capability.

Iran denies such an aim, saying it only wants to generate energy.

Obama and the leaders of France and Britain accused Iran of keeping the construction hidden from the world for years. The U.S. president said last month that Iran's actions "raised grave doubts" about its promise to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes only.

ElBaradei admitted that the International Atomic Energy Agency has "concerns about Iran's future intentions," but that added that "the agency has no concrete proof of an ongoing weapons program in Iran," he added.

"We need transparency on the part of Iran and we need cooperation on the part of the international community," he said.

Iran agreed to allow U.N. inspectors into the facility at a landmark meeting with six world powers near Geneva on Thursday that put nuclear talks back on track and included the highest-level bilateral contact with the U.S. in three decades.

Iranian officials argue that under IAEA safeguard rules, a member nation is required to inform the U.N. agency about the existence of a nuclear facility six months before introducing nuclear material into the machines. Iran says the new facility won't be operational for 18 months, and so it has not violated any IAEA requirements.

The IAEA has said that Iran is obliged under the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to notify the organization when it begins to design a new nuclear facility.

Suspicion that Iran's newly revealed nuclear site was meant for military purposes was heightened by its location, at least partly inside a mountain and next to a military base.

ElBaradei also discussed a plan to allow Russia to take some of Iran's processed uranium and enrich it to higher levels to fuel a research reactor in Tehran.

He said that there would be a meeting Oct. 19 in Vienna with Iran, the U.S., France and Russia to discuss the details of that agreement.

This program aired on October 4, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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