TEHRAN, Iran — U.N. inspectors entered a once-secret uranium enrichment facility with bunker-like construction and heavy military protection that raised Western suspicions about the extent and intent of Iran’s nuclear program.
The visit Sunday by the four-member International Atomic Energy Agency team, reported by state media, was the first independent look inside the planned nuclear fuel lab, a former ammunition dump burrowed into the treeless hills south of Tehran and only publicly disclosed last month. The inspectors are expected to study plant blueprints, interview workers and take soil samples before wrapping up the three-day mission.
No results from the inspection are expected until the team leaves the country, but some Iranian officials hailed the visit as an example that their nuclear program was open to international scrutiny.
“IAEA inspectors’ visit to Fordo shows that Iran’s nuclear activities are transparent and peaceful,” the official IRNA news agency quoted lawmaker Hasan Ebrahimi as saying.
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Another test of Iran’s cooperation is fast approaching, however. Iran has promised to respond this week to a U.N.-brokered deal to process its nuclear fuel abroad — a plan designed to ease Western fears about Iran’s potential ability to produce weapons-grade material.
The current inspection of Iran’s second enrichment site came about a month after Tehran disclosed its existence in a letter to the IAEA, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog. The notification to the U.N. agency came just days before President Barack Obama and other Western leaders claimed Iran has been hiding the facility from the world for years.