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U.N. inspectors given 'managed access' to Iran uranium mine

| Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, 5:36 p.m.

TEHRAN — A group of U.N. inspectors visited a key uranium mine in southern Iran on Wednesday as part of a deal to allow expanded monitoring of the country's nuclear sites.

Nuclear spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi told the official IRNA news agency that the three-member team from the U.N. nuclear watchdog — the International Atomic Energy Agency — inspected the Gachin uranium mine, about 30 miles west of the southern port city of Bandar Abbas.

Iran and the IAEA struck a deal on Nov. 11 in Tehran granting U.N. inspectors wider access to Iran's nuclear facilities. The deal was parallel to an agreement reached with world powers on Nov. 24 in Geneva to have Iran halt its most sensitive uranium enrichment activities in return for an easing of Western sanctions over its controversial nuclear program.

Kamalvandi, spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said U.N. inspectors were given “managed access” to Gachin site. The term refers to a level of scrutiny that provides IAEA inspectors with access to data while at the same time allows the host country to protect some information.

Next to Gachin uranium mine is an associated mill that turns the mined uranium into uranium ore concentrate, a powder known as yellowcake because of its mostly yellowish color. The processing is part of the early stages before actual enrichment of uranium.

In the past, IAEA has questioned whether the Gachin facility was linked to alleged possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program.

Iranian media said Tehran was not under any international obligations to allow such inspections but agreed to allow wider U.N. access to dispel suspicions about its past nuclear activities and show greater transparency in order to prove its goodwill.

Iran allowed U.N. inspectors a similar managed access to its Arak heavy-water production plant last month.

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