Iran will allow the UN nuclear agency to inspect a newly revealed and still unfinished uranium enrichment facility, the country's nuclear chief told state television Saturday.
Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi didn't specify when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency could visit the site, but said it has to be worked out with the agency under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty rules.
What's going on at Iranian site?
Meanwhile, American research institutions ISIS published over the weekend photos that may serve as further proof that Iran maintains a nuclear site at Qom. The satellite imagers were taken from Google Earth and from Digital Globe and appear to show the opening of tunnels or a large underground facility.
Ynet's defense analyst Ron Ben Yishai noted that the new site is supposed to house about 9,000 centrifuges, which based on past experience will likely be placed in several underground sites to protect them from an aerial assault. The Iranians may build a site at two different sites that are located near each other in order to mislead spy satellites, he said.
Salehi said there was nothing secret about the site and that Iran complied with UN rules that require it to inform the world body's nuclear agency six months before a uranium enrichment facility becomes operational.
"Inspection will be within the framework of the regulations ... we have no problem with inspection (of the site). We will work out this issue with the agency and will announce the date of the inspection later after reaching an agreement with IAEA," Salei told state television Saturday.
Salehi, who is also the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Tehran should be praised, not condemned, for voluntarily revealing the existence of the nuclear facility.
"Under (NPT) rules, we are required to inform the IAEA of the existence of such a facility 180 days before introducing materials but we are announcing it more than a year earlier. Still, we see there is controversy. We are astonished," he said.
'We foiled their planned conspiracy'Iran says the new facility won't be operational for 18 months so Iran has not violated any IAEA requirements.
A close aide to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, however, said said Saturday that the Qom facility will be operational soon.
"This new facility, God willing, will become operational soon and will blind the eyes of the enemies," Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani told the semi-official Fars news agency. It is not clear if he meant less than 18 months.
Salehi said that by reporting the existence of the site voluntarily to the IAEA, Iran "pre-empted a conspiracy" against Tehran by the US and its allies who were hoping to reveal the site as evidence that Iran was developing its nuclear program in secret.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has foiled their planned conspiracy," he said.
Salehi said construction of the Qom facility was a "precautionary measure" to protect Iran's nuclear facilities from possible attacks.
"Given the threats we face every day, we are required to take the necessary precautionary measures, spread our facilities and protect our human assets. Therefore, the facility is to guarantee the continuation of our nuclear activities under any conditions," he told the television.