Middle East
IAEA envoys tour Iran nuclear site
Iran hopes for a lift in UN sanctions as it shows off its nuclear intallations.
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2007 18:10 GMT
Machines use yellow cakes to produce UF6 [AFP] 
Envoys from the Non-Aligned Movement of developing nations were shown UN surveillance cameras while touring a nuclear site in Iran as part of Tehran's bid to be open about its disputed atomic programme.
The six NAM diplomats, accredited to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), visited the site near the central Iranian city of Isfahan that converts uranium ore into feedstock uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas.
About 90 Iranian and foreign journalists were also shown round the site, where employees in white overalls and face masks feed uranium "yellow cake" into a conversion line.
"All these journalists can see and tell the world that Iran's activities are peaceful," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's IAEA envoy, said during the tour.
Monitor work 
Soltanieh said the trip showed Iran's "transparency" and pointed out two IAEA cameras to monitor work in a room were UF6 is produced at the site, situated in a barren area southeast of Isfahan and surrounded by anti-aircraft guns.
The United States has said putting Iran's nuclear activities on display would not build confidence abroad.
The envoys, who stay in Iran until Monday, are not due to visit the Natanz uranium enrichment site where UF6 gas is fed into centrifuges to make power plant fuel or, if greatly enriched, material for warheads.
Publicity excercise
The group comprises ambassadors from Egypt, Malaysia, Cuba, Algeria and Sudan, and a Syrian representing the Arab League.
"They are not technical people and will not be able to pass judgment on what is going on. This is a publicity exercise, that's the main point," a NAM ambassador in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, said ahead of the visit.
The IAEA says it needs more information about Iran's atomic work before it can give a clean bill of health and has urged Iran to reconsider a move to bar 38 out of 200 inspectors whose role is to check whether materials are diverted to bomb making.
Iran blocked the inspectors after the United Nations penalised Tehran last month for refusing to halt enrichment.
The UN sanctions bar the transfer of sensitive materials and know-how to Iran's nuclear programme.
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