Iran accused of building secret nuke plant

Iran accused of building secret nuke plant

Obama wants Tehran to allow IAEA to inspect facility for producing fuel

Appearing before reporters in Pittsburgh, Obama said the Iranian nuclear programme “represents a direct challenge to the basic foundation of the nonproliferation regime.” French President Nicholas Sarkozy, appearing beside Obama, said that Iran had deadline of two months to comply with international demands or face increased sanctions.
“The level of deception by the Iranian government, and the scale of what we believe is the breach of international commitments, will shock and anger the entire international community,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said. “The international community has no choice today but to draw a line in the sand.”

The extraordinary and hastily-arranged joint appearance by the three leaders — and Obama said German Chancellor Angela Merkel had asked him to convey that she stood with them as well — adds urgency to the diplomatic confrontation with Iran over its suspected ambition to build a nuclear weapons capacity.

The three men demanded that Iran allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to conduct an immediate inspection of the facility, which is said to be 100 miles southwest of Tehran.

Pilot plant
American officials said they had been tracking the covert project for years, but that Obama decided to make public the American findings after Iran discovered, in recent weeks, that Western intelligence agencies had breached the secrecy surrounding the project. On Monday, Iran wrote a brief, cryptic letter to the IAEA, saying that it now had a “pilot plant” under construction, whose existence it had never before revealed.

In a statement from its headquarters in Vienna on Friday, the atomic agency confirmed that it had been told Monday by Iran that “a new pilot fuel enrichment plant is under construction in the country.” The agency said it had requested more information about the plant and access to it as soon as possible. “The agency also understands from Iran that no nuclear material has been introduced into the facility,” said the statement said.
On Friday, ISNA, an Iranian news agency, quoted an “informed source” as confirming the existence of the second uranium-enrichment site, describing it as similar to Iran’s known enrichment facility at Natanz.

The newly discovered enrichment plant is not yet in operation, American officials said, but could be next year. American officials said late on Thursday that they believe the plant was designed to hold about 3,000 centrifuges, which enrich uranium for nuclear power plants — or, with additional enrichment, for bombs. That would be enough centrifuges to manufacture about one bomb’s worth of material a year, though it is unclear whether any of the centrifuges have been installed or turned on. Obama said on Friday that “the size and type of the facility is inconsistent with that of a peaceful facility,” and he added that French, British and American intelligence about the plant had been provided to the IAEA.
The IAEA statement said Iran had told the agency the new plant would enrich uranium to a level of 5 per cent  — high enough for nuclear fuel, but not nearly enough to make the fissile material for an atomic bomb. Iran assured the agency in its letter that “further complementary information will be provided in an appropriate and due time,” IAEA said.

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