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Obama to Iran: Inspections within 2 weeks

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama wants Iran to allow "unfettered" access to the Qom nuclear facility within two weeks if negotiations are to continue.

Obama spoke Thursday afternoon from the White House after negotiators in Geneva announced that Iran will allow U.N. nuclear inspectors to visit its second uranium enrichment plant.

The concession, announced Thursday after a meeting in Geneva between representatives from Iran and major world powers, paved the way for a second meeting aimed at ending the Islamic Republic’s isolation in exchange for proof that it does not have a nuclear weapons program.

The EU representative at the meeting, Javier Solana, said the sides had yet to set a date for the inspection by officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency, but it would be soon.

Obama said it must happen within two weeks.

"Since Iran has now agreed to cooperate fully and immediately with the International Atomic Energy Agency, it must grant unfettered access to IAEA inspectors within two weeks," the U.S. president said in a statement. "I’ve been in close touch with the head of the IAEA, Mohammed ElBaradei, who will be traveling to Tehran in the days ahead. He has my full support, and the Iranian government must grant the IAEA full access to the site in Qom."

Obama said the talks were "constructive."

Iran’s revelation last week of a uranium enrichment plant at Qom, in addition to its known enrichment center at Natanz, intensified calls in the United States and Europe for punishing sanctions on Iran. Iran revealed the existence of the Qom reactor just as Western powers were about to confront it with intelligence showing such a plant was in place.

In another agreement, the major powers at the meeting — the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain — agreed to allow Iran to export low-grade uranium for further enrichment, and then to reimport it for medical purposes.

Obama suggested that Iran must release all its low-grade uranium in order to build confidence.

"We support Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear power," he said. "Taking the step of transferring its low enriched uranium to a third country would be a step towards building confidence that Iran’s program is in fact peaceful."

In a first, top Iranian and U.S. officials met bilaterally during the meeting: William Burns, the top Middle East affairs official at the the U.S. State Department, met in private with Saeed Jalili, the top Iranian negotiator.

Separately, Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister, visited Washington — the first such visit since 1998. Mottaki was visiting staffers at the Iranian interest section at the Pakistani Embassy. Iran and the United States do not have diplomatic relations.

 
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