Obama accuses Iran of evasion before Geneva talks

WASHINGTON/TEHRAN (Reuters) – US President  Barack Obama said yesterday the discovery of a secret nuclear  plant in Iran showed a “disturbing pattern” of evasion by  Tehran that added urgency to its talks on Thursday with world  powers.

Iran’s ambassador to the UN’s nuclear watchdog said  Tehran was arranging for International Atomic Energy Agency  inspections at the site “in the very near future,” although  other Iranian officials struck a defiant note.

One said he hoped Iran’s second nuclear enrichment site,  under construction southwest of Tehran, would soon be ready to  “blind” Iran’s enemies.

But Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA,  said he foresaw a quick visit to the site by agency inspectors,  although he called the Obama administration’s response to the  plant’s disclosure “discouraging” and a “political show.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed  Soltanieh’s statement on IAEA inspections, telling reporters,  “It is always welcome when Iran makes a decision to comply with  the international rules and regulations and particularly with  respect to the IAEA.”

Iran, which says its nuclear programme is aimed at  electricity generation rather than weapons production as feared  by the West, will meet the United States and five other powers  in the Swiss city of Geneva on Thursday.

A senior US administration official said the six powers  were preparing “a set of transparency demands” focused on the  secret uranium enrichment plant near Qom, a Shi’ite Muslim holy  city south of Tehran.

“Those demands include unfettered access for the IAEA to  the Qom facility, the people working there, and timelines  related to its development,” the official said.

“The timeline for this demand for this information about  Qom will be weeks.”

It is expected the demands will be presented to Iran at the  Geneva meeting.

Obama warned Iran on Friday it would face “sanctions that  bite” if it did not come clean.

“This is a serious challenge to the global  non-proliferation regime and continues a disturbing pattern of  Iranian evasion,” he said in his weekly radio and Internet  address on Saturday.

“That is why international negotiations with Iran scheduled  for October 1 now take on added urgency,” he said.
Britain, France and Germany have joined the United States  in raising the prospect of new sanctions against Iran if it did  not take steps to allay concerns about its nuclear programme.

Russia also signalled a greater willingness to go along with  sanctions, while China said it favoured a “dual track” approach  of pressure and talks.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed “grave  concern” in talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on  Friday and said Tehran had to show its intent was peaceful.

“He emphasized that the burden of proof is on Iran,” Ban’s  press office said in a statement.

Adding to the tension, Iranian media said Iran’s elite  Revolutionary Guards would hold missile defence exercises  starting on Sunday and taking place over several days.

Iran acknowledged it had a uranium enrichment facility near  Qom for the first time on Monday in a letter to the IAEA.

The head of Iran’s atomic energy organization said Iran  thought the disclosure would be welcomed. “We are completely  stunned and we were anticipating that the Western countries  would welcome this measure by Iran,” Ali Akbar Salehi said.

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