published: Sunday | February 11, 2007
The UN nuclear watchdog has installed surveillance cameras at Iran's underground nuclear plant where "industrial-scale" enrichment of uranium is planned, an Iranian official said yesterday.
In Vienna, a diplomat familiar with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) operations in Iran confirmed cameras were now in place inside the vast, bunker-like complex at Natanz after what diplomats called obstruction by Tehran last month.
The Iranian official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters the Vienna-based IAEA had full supervision of the subterranean section of Natanz through monitoring and inspections.
"The installation of cameras, which started last week, ended in the past two days," the official told Reuters.
Heightening concerns among Western powers who suspect Iran is secretly trying to build atom bombs, something it denies, Vienna diplomats said on February 2, that Tehran had refused to let IAEA inspectors set up the cameras in Natanz, but that efforts were under way to resolve the dispute.
"Inspectors are in the (underground plant), safeguards measures, including the cameras, are in place that are necessary at this stage. The dispute was settled," said the first Vienna diplomat.
"That means 'at this stage'. IAEA measures will need to be increased and adjusted once Iran goes into enriching uranium in the underground plant," the diplomat added.
Tehran denied having blocked the camera installation.
IAEA inspectors and cameras have been monitoring the small, above-ground research wing of Natanz for some time.
"NOTHING TO HIDE"
Another senior Iranian official said Iran wanted to display its transparency by allowing the IAEA to install the cameras. "We have nothing to hide. The West wants confidence building measures, here it is," the official said.
Vienna diplomats versed in IAEA operations said last week Iran had begun installing 3,000 centrifuges to step up uranium enrichment, which can be used to run power plants or to detonate atomic bombs. Iran has not confirmed this yet.
The Islamic Republic maintains that it only wants to generate fuel for nuclear power plants. But the IAEA remains unable to ascertain that Tehran's programme is wholly peaceful after three years of inquiries.
The U.N.Security Council, which banned transfers of technology and knowhow to Iran's nuclear and missile programmes on December 23, has given Tehran until Feb. 21 to stop enriching uranium or face broader sanctions.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Iran would celebrate its nuclear achievements on Sunday, the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
That prompted talk that Tehran might say it had begun installing centrifuges at the Natanz facility, escalating its stand-off with Western powers.
Larijani said in Munich yesterday Iran still believed the nuclear row can be resolved by negotiations. Larijani is expected to meet EU officials in Munich.