IAEA experts check Iran’s nuke plant

A team of four International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors is in Iran to examine its second nuclear enrichment plant.

The scientists have reportedly visited the facility in the city of Qum on Sunday to make sure it is being built for peaceful purposes. The mission is scheduled to last for three days.

On Friday, Iran delayed its response to an IAEA deal that would see its low-enriched uranium shipped abroad for further enrichment.

Iran could soon agree to an international deal on that, the country’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki confirmed on Monday.

Meanwhile, in their telephone conversation on Saturday, Russia’s President Dimitry Medvedev and his American counterpart Barack Obama expressed satisfaction with the results of the negotiations in Vienna.

According to the draft deal adopted at the talks, Russia will take most of Iran’s uranium, and then sub-contract any additional processing to France, so that no direct negotiations between France and Iran will be necessary. Tehran will receive all the fuel it needs to run a research reactor by the end of 2010.

“I very much hope that people see the big picture, that this agreement could open the way for normalized relations between Iran and the international community,” IAEA chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, told journalists.

Despite Iran taking its time to think, experts believe that the deal could be beneficial for the country.

“It is cheaper and more convenient to enrich the uranium in Russia, where the technology is available and has been proven for decades,” said Aleksandr Pikaev of the Institute for World Economy and International Relations. “The uranium will be of a better quality and Iran will only gain from that.”

Iran insists it will not halt its enrichment work even if it approves the deal, which worries Israel. Israelis say the plan gives Tehran more time to develop nuclear weapons and limits the chances of a military operation against the country.

At the moment, Iran has no need to enrich uranium to more than four or five percent – which is a far cry from the 80 to 90 per cent needed for nuclear weapons. Tehran insists it will enrich uranium to twenty per cent if the major powers fail to supply it with the fuel it needs.

The country has always insisted its activities are peaceful and meant only to generate energy. However, if Iran rejects the offer currently on the table, pressure is likely to mount in the international community for a fresh round of sanctions against the country.

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