Obama Calls For "Unfettered" Access To Iran Nuclear Facility

By: CNN
By: CNN

GENEVA, Switzerland (CNN) -- U.S. President Barack Obama called on Iran to provide the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency "unfettered" access to the newly disclosed Qom uranium enrichment site, while Tehran's nuclear negotiator said the country would cooperate with inspectors.

Speaking on talks held earlier Thursday in Geneva, Switzerland, between Iran and the so-called P5+1 allies including the United States, Obama said the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency would be traveling within two weeks to Iran to inspect the Qom facility.

The IAEA has confirmed a trip to Iran by Director General Mohamed ElBaradei would take place soon, but no specific date has been announced. A senior U.S. official speaking on background told reporters that ElBaradei's trip to Tehran could come as early as this weekend.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Thursday, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said transparency "is not something new" for the Islamic republic's nuclear program.

"Iran has committed itself to follow all the obligations and the like," Jalili said, speaking through a translator provided by the Iranian delegation in Geneva. "What I want to emphasize is that our cooperation with the agency and the way we look specifically regarding to nuclear energy is that we believe that nuclear warheads are illegitimate and no country should have these kind of weapons."

He said nuclear energy for peaceful purposes "is the right of every sovereign state and country."

Earlier, Iran said it plans to cooperate "fully" and "immediately" with the U.N. nuclear agency and will invite representatives of the body to visit its newly revealed uranium enrichment facility "soon," according to Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief.

This was one of three major developments at a meeting in Geneva between Iran and world powers over Iran's nuclear program. Solana said the meeting "represented the start of what we hope will be an intensive process."

"I and all the representatives of the six countries were united in underlining the importance of full transparency and of rebuilding confidence through practical steps. In the course of the day, we had both plenary meetings and bilateral discussions allowing for detailed exchanges on all issues," Solana said.

The meeting occurred on the heels of the recent revelation that Iran was building a second uranium enrichment facility near Qom, a dramatic development that jacked up tension between Iran and international powers.

International powers want inspectors to have free access to Iran's new facility and have threatened more sanctions if the Islamic republic doesn't change its ways.

Obama on Thursday said he expected to see "swift action" by Iran on the steps outlined in the Geneva talks, which he called "constructive."

"Talk is no substitute for action," Obama said in urging Iran to take the necessary steps to meet its obligations under international nonproliferation agreements.

Solana confirmed that world powers and Iran will hold another round of talks before the end of the month, but it is not known where or exactly when.

He also said the world powers and Iran agreed in principle "that low-enriched uranium produced in Iran would be transported to third countries for further enrichment and fabrication into fuel assemblies for the Tehran research reactor, which produces isotopes for medical applications."

Details will be worked out at the next meeting, Solana said.

The senior U.S. official told reporters that the enrichment would happen in Russia.

"The potential advantage of this, if it's implemented, is that it would significantly reduce Iran's [low-enriched uranium] stockpile, which itself is a source of anxiety in the Middle East and elsewhere," the official told reporters in a briefing Thursday.

Iran participated in the talks along with the EU, Germany, and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

Top officials from the United States and Iran huddled on the margins of the Geneva talks on Iran's nuclear program.

Jalili met with William J. Burns, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs who was leading the U.S. delegation, a senior U.S. official and a diplomatic source confirmed to CNN.

The men discussed the nuclear program, a sit-down described as the first face-to-face meeting over the Iran's nuclear program.

The diplomatic source -- who characterized the meeting as "serious and frank" -- said world powers were pushing for a date for IAEA inspectors to examine the recently-revealed nuclear facility in Qom.

They also discussed human rights issues, including detained Americans in Iran. Among those held in Iranian custody are three hikers who strayed from Iraqi territory into Iran.

The sources would only talk on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the discussions with Iran.

"They certainly are historical talks," David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former weapons inspector, told CNN. "For the United States and Iran to sit down finally and start to talk about the significant differences between the two countries is extremely important, and I think it's long overdue."

The group met at the Villa le Saugy.

The mood at the event's buffet-style lunch seemed to belie the stark international tensions over the Iranian nuclear issue. Iranians and the other officials dined and mingled. Some ate while seated, and others stood at tables, an official at the talks said.

Many gathered in the villa's backyard, and enjoyed a view of Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps, the official said. Along with the U.S. and Iranian officials, many others huddled together, quietly discussing issues in sidebar conversations, the official said.

U.S. President Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain and France to publicly chide the Islamic republic last week at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh and threaten further sanctions.

Iran claims its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes, but many in the international community have accused the country of trying to develop nuclear weapons capability.

-- CNN's Andrew Carey, Matthew Chance and Elise Labott contributed to this report

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