UN inspectors to visit Natanz today: diplomats

February 14, 2006 - 0:0
VIENNA (AFP) -- UN nuclear inspectors are today to visit an Iranian nuclear facility where enrichment work is under way, diplomats told AFP in Vienna.

"International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors are due at the Natanz enrichment facility on Tuesday," a diplomat close to the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, said Monday, in comments confirmed by other diplomats.

A semi-official Iranian news agency had earlier Monday announced the "imminent" removal of the seals and cameras from the country's main uranium enrichment plant in Natanz that had been under IAEA supervision. A second diplomat said: "The Iranians can still enrich while the seals are there but can not take material out without observation."

The diplomat played down the impact of what the Iranians would do, saying that seals and surveillance cameras would remain in place but be monitoring manufacturing at Natanz rather than the suspension of work that the Iranians are ending.

In reaction to the IAEA reporting it to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program, which the United States claims is aimed at weapons development, Iran has ended voluntary measures, such as suspending enrichment and allowing short-notice inspections.

But the IAEA still has a safeguards agreement with Iran which includes monitoring activity at Natanz and other key nuclear facilities.

The diplomat said the IAEA has adjusted its equipment as the suspension is over, in many cases re-targeting surveillance equipment from monitoring the functioning of machines to monitoring the production of nuclear fuel.

The diplomat said the IAEA would continue its safeguards' monitoring and said Iranian threats to remove equipment and seals were "something symbolic" that would not impede the agency's work.