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Nuclear inspectors to visit Iran

BBC | April 5 2006

United Nations nuclear inspectors will arrive in Iran on Friday to visit sites including the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, a top Iranian official has said.

Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Aliasghar Soltanieh, said the inspectors would mainly be looking at the Natanz site.

The UN Security Council last week gave Iran 30 days to suspend uranium enrichment or face isolation.

Tehran insists its nuclear work is peaceful and has rejected the demand.

The non-binding statement on Iran was approved unanimously by the Security Council on 29 March and came after weeks of wrangling.

The IAEA agency will report back later this month on whether Iran has complied with the demand.

'Ready to negotiate'

Iran insists it has the right to civilian nuclear technology and denies Western claims that it is seeking atomic weapons.

"Iran will not suspend its research activities in the field of enrichment. These activities will go on under the supervision of the IAEA," Mr Soltanieh said.

Iran resumed small-scale uranium enrichment in January, citing research purposes.

It then scrapped snap inspections of its nuclear sites in February after the issue was referred to the UN Security Council. However it has said it is continuing to co-operate with the IAEA.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters Iran was prepared to negotiate on the issue of large-scale enrichment, but would never abandon its right to enrich uranium.

"The enrichment of uranium... is Iran's right as defined as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," Mr Mottaki said.

"For industrial-scale production of nuclear fuel, which is the next stage, we are ready for negotiations."

It is no surprise that Iran has offered negotiations at this stage, as it often does so when it is under pressure, the BBC News website's Paul Reynolds suggests.

Given Iran's refusal to give up enrichment, the offer is unlikely to have any immediate effect, our correspondent adds - but it could open up lines of negotiation for the future.


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