Iran offers extended inspections to United Nations inspectors

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 5:44:44 by

Iran’s foreign minister offered on Monday to extend a three-day visit to his country by United Nations inspectors in what seemed to be a further attempt to lower the strident tone of a crisis with the West over Tehran’s nuclear
program after the imposition of new economic sanctions.

It was not clear whether the offer was part of what European officials have termed efforts by Iran to buy time while continuing uranium enrichment. Iran says the nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, while Western leaders say
it is seeking the capacity to build nuclear weapons.

The conciliatory tone struck by Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, reported by Iran’s state-run news media, was offset by other Iranian news reports that suggested Iran might be girding for a military confrontation. Those reports
said Iran had tested new battlefield equipment including laser-guided artillery shells and a remotely piloted drone capable of carrying an 11-pound payload.

Press TV, a state-financed satellite broadcaster, also quoted Mr. Salehi as saying Iranian scientists would install, “in the coming months,” their first locally produced fuel plates enriched to 20 percent purity to refuel a research
reactor in Tehran.

Iran says it needs fuel enriched to that level to produce medical isotopes for the treatment of 800,000 patients. But Western specialists say that because of the oddities of how uranium is enriched, those batches would be the easiest
to convert for use in weapons.

According to Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency, Mr. Salehi, while on a tour of Ethiopia, was asked to comment on a visit to Iran by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog
that began over the weekend. He said he was “optimistic towards the visit and noted that the three-day stay of the inspectors could be extended upon their request,” the news agency said.


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