Saturday, October 24, 2009

UN nuclear inspectors head to Iran to visit site

U.N inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

VIENNA – A team of U.N. inspectors went to Iran on Saturday to visit a recently revealed nuclear site, amid new efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency experts are slated to examine an unfinished uranium enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom to verify it is for peaceful purposes. Disclosure of its existence last month raised international suspicion over the extent and aim of the country's nuclear program.

Iran insists its nuclear program serves to generate power and denies allegations it is trying to make nuclear weapons. Tehran asked for more time Friday to consider a U.N.-backed plan to ship much of its uranium to Russia for enrichment.

The U.S., Russia and France endorsed the deal Friday, but Iran's representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said Tehran wants until next week to respond

President Barack Obama called French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Saturday to discuss Iran. "The two chiefs of state stated their perfect convergence of views on the Iranian nuclear issue," according to a statement from Sarkozy's office. It would not comment further on what they discussed or the timing for an eventual new international meeting on Iran.

The White House said Obama thanked Sarkozy for France's close cooperation on the issue and that they agreed to continue consultations in the weeks ahead. Obama also spoke with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, stressing the need for unity between Washington and Moscow on Iran, according to the White House.