Nuclear Inspectors Pay Visit to Iran
Five U.N. weapons inspectors arrived in Iran to visit uranium enrichment and reprocessing plants for the first time since the country suspended surprise inspections in February, state media reported Saturday.
The trip came as a New Yorker magazine report said the Bush administration was stepping up plans for a possible airstrike against Iran, even as it publicly pushes for a peaceful solution to the standoff.
Iran’s deputy nuclear chief, Mohammed Saeedi, said inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, would begin their work today at the Esfahan Uranium Conversion Facility in central Iran, then make a visit to the Natanz uranium enrichment plant.
Tehran says its nuclear program is merely for generating electricity, but the U.S. fears that it aims to build weapons.
The New Yorker story by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, mostly citing unidentified current and former officials, appears in the April 17 issue.
“This White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran, and that means war,” Hersh quotes an unidentified senior Pentagon advisor as saying.
The White House, without denying the report, reiterated that it was pursuing a diplomatic solution.
“We are not going to discuss military planning,” said spokesman Blair Jones.
Hersh’s report says the administration has stepped up clandestine activities in Iran.
A former senior Defense official is cited as saying the plan was based on the belief that a bombing campaign against Iran would humiliate the leadership and lead the Iranian public to overthrow it.
The administration is considering using “bunker buster” tactical nuclear weapons to ensure the destruction of Iran’s main centrifuge plant at Natanz, the report says. The Pentagon advisor is quoted as saying that some senior officers and officials were considering quitting over that possibility.
The inspectors’ trip comes ahead of a visit by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA.
On March 29, the U.N. Security Council demanded that Iran suspend enrichment and asked the IAEA to report back in 30 days.
Iran has so far refused to halt its nuclear activity, saying the small-scale enrichment project was strictly for research and was within its rights under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.