U.N. to Visit Iranian Nuclear Site

A date has been set for the U.N. nuclear watchdog to inspect Iran's heavy-water production plant at Arak

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Iran has invited the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit its heavy-water production plant at Arak on December 8. The facility, which the West suspects could be used in the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons, had not been made accessible to inspectors since August 2011, despite repeated requests.

The invitation came in response to a cooperation pact between the IAEA and Iran that is separate from the interim agreement reached between Iran and six world powers last weekend. Diplomats hope that the securing of two such deals reflects a genuine change in the attitude of the Iranian authorities towards the inspectors, who have also been invited to inspect a uranium mine.

The increased access to Iran’s nuclear facilities has prompted the head of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, to suggest that additional financial resources may be needed by the agency. He also told the agency’s 35-nation board that an analysis of how the recent interim agreement will be implemented by inspectors would “take some time.”

The politically moderate Hassan Rouhani was elected to the Iranian presidency in June on a platform of engaging with the international community after years of isolation. He had pledged to negotiate the reduction of crippling oil and banking sanctions levied on Iran by the West in retaliation for Iran’s proceeding with an opaque nuclear program.