U.N. nuclear inspectors in Iran to visit Arak plant

(JTA) — United Nations nuclear inspectors have arrived in Iran to examine the Arak heavy water production plant.

The inspectors arrived on Saturday, and will enter the plant on Monday, according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.

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The inspectors have been provided with information about the research being conducted in the country’s nuclear plants, Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy organization, told Fars. The inspection is being held based on an agreement signed in November between Iran and the IAEA.

It is the second visit to Arak by inspectors from the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, since August 2011. The plant was to be home to a plutonium reactor, whose production reportedly has been suspended.

The inspection comes after an interim agreement reached last month between Tehran and the world powers under which Iran would freeze some of its nuclear production in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions.

Iran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes only, while the West believes the country wants to build nuclear weapons.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Iran’s Parliament last week that the Islamic Republic would continue to build the Arak heavy water plant reactor, in contravention of the announced agreement.

On Saturday, Kamalvandi told the official Iranian state news agency IRNA that Iran is testing more technologically advanced centrifuges, and that the IAEA had been informed of the effort.

The testing does not appear to violate the interim agreement, according to Reuters, but it could enable Iran to refine uranium to weapons grade much faster.

Also on Sunday, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani slammed Israel and U.S. support for the Jewish state during an open session of parliament.

“The Zionist regime represents the modern face of fascist racism, and we see again how the West and the U.S. see themselves indebted to this regime and have pioneered in all-out support for Israel and this ridiculous comedy has repeated behind the same ridiculous face of supporting the human rights at the international level and massacring the Palestinian nation in their homes,” Larijani said, according to Fars.

He added that: “The West won’t respect the Palestinians’ rights except through resistance.”