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September 27, 2009

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Iran to allow UN nuclear plant probe

IRAN'S nuclear chief said yesterday his country will allow the United Nations' nuclear agency to inspect its newly revealed, still unfinished uranium enrichment facility.

Ali Akbar Salehi didn't specify when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency could visit the site.

He said the timing will be worked out with the UN watchdog.

Iran's newly revealed site is said to be in the arid mountains near the holy city of Qom, inside a heavily guarded, underground facility.

The pilot plant will house 3,000 centrifuges that could soon produce nuclear fuel, or the payload for atomic warheads, Salehi said on state TV yesterday.

He said Iran had "pre-empted a conspiracy" against Tehran by the US and its allies by reporting the site voluntarily to the IAEA.

Separately, the country's semi-official Mehr News Agency reported yesterday that Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards will stage missile defence exercises today.

The announcement of the war games coincides with increased tension in Iran's nuclear dispute with the West.

Obama address

Hours before Iran's nuclear chief told state TV about the decision to allow UN inspection of the nuclear facility, US President Barack Obama said in his radio and Internet address that he offers Iran "a serious, meaningful dialogue" over the disputed nuclear program and warned Tehran of grave consequences from a united global front.

"Iran's leaders must now choose: they can live up to their responsibilities and achieve integration with the community of nations. Or they will face increased pressure and isolation, and deny opportunity to their own people," Obama said in his weekly address.

Obama said evidence of Iran building the underground plant "continues a disturbing pattern of Iranian evasion" that jeopardizes global nonproliferation.

Ahead of Thursday's international talks with Iran in Geneva, Obama said the world "is more united than ever before" on this issue. Those negotiations, he said, "now take on added urgency."

Iran's failure to comply with international inspectors raised the potential of tougher economic penalties, although Obama and administration officials did not rule out military action.

"My offer of a serious, meaningful dialogue to resolve this issue remains open," Obama said, urging Tehran to "take action to demonstrate its peaceful intentions."

Evidence of the clandestine facility was presented on Friday by Obama and the leaders of Britain and France at the G-20 economic summit in Pittsburgh.

Obama demanded that Iran come clean about the program or risk imposition of "sanctions that bite."


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