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IAEA to inspect Fordo facility late October

The visiting head of the UN nuclear watchdog says inspectors from the IAEA are to visit Iran’s new uranium enrichment plant southwest of Tehran in late October.

“I am pleased to say … we agreed that our inspectors would come here on the 25th of October to do the inspection,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief, Mohamed ElBaradei told a press conference in Tehran.

The date was confirmed by the country’s atomic chief Ali-Akbar Salehi who was also present at the session.

The Fordo uranium enrichment plant, which lies 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Tehran near the holy city of Qom, is currently under construction.

Iran has announced the existence of Fordo nuclear plant 12 months earlier than the agency requirement for member states to inform the UN nuclear watchdog of new developments.

ElBaradei also spoke of an upcoming meeting of US, French, Russian and Iranian officials on October 19 for talks of possible enrichment of Iran’s uranium to a higher grade abroad.

“We will have a meeting to discuss the technical details and hopefully we will hammer out an agreement as early as possible,” he said.

“We will have a meeting on October 19th with the participation of the United States, Russia, France, and of course the agency will act as a convener of the meeting,” the former Egyptian diplomat added.

The Tehran research reactor which produces radiomedicine for cancer patients runs on uranium that is some 20 percent U-235 – an enrichment level higher than what is currently produced at Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility.

The activities in the research reactor, located in Tehran’s northern Amirabad, is just a small part of Iran’s nuclear program and the issue has nothing to do with Iran’s wide-ranging talks with group P5+1 which are based on Iran’s proposal package presented to Western powers.

Reports by some media outlets last week indicated that Iran had agreed to ship low-grade uranium to Russia and have it returned to Tehran after it had been enriched to a level of 20 percent.

According to reports, France would replace the uranium in sealed fuel assemblies that Iran would later use to operate a Tehran reactor which produces medical isotopes.

Iranian officials however rejected reports that it reached a deal with world powers to ship its enriched uranium abroad for further processing.

Iranian officials say, however, that the offer to “purchase” 20 percent enriched uranium is what would be discussed at an October 18 meeting with the IAEA, stressing that the session would have nothing to do with the Geneva talks.

Iran says that it will take the best offer from either of the supplying candidates, which include Russia, France and the United States.

On Thursday, diplomats from Iran and the six world powers (China, Russia, the US, Britain, Germany, and France) took part in the first session of a new round of wide-ranging talks over global issues in Geneva.

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