Wednesday, March 30, 2005

President takes reporters to once-secret Iranian nuclear plant

NATANZ, Iran, March 30 — Iran's president led reporters on an unprecedented visit to the once-secret Natanz nuclear complex Wednesday, providing a glimpse into the underground uranium enrichment plant that the United States and Europe are demanding be shut down.

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The unfinished complex lies underground beneath a barren desert plain at the foot of an Iranian mountain range. The area is ringed with anti-aircraft guns. Iran says the threat of an American or Israeli airstrike forced it to build the facility underground to protect its technology.

Thirty journalists were taken into a concrete corridor where Khatami looked over technical documents, graphs and charts of the site.

Khatami inspected the plant's string of centrifuges — the core of the enrichment process — but reporters were not allowed to see the machines or any other enrichment technology.

The complex would have been finished and inaugurated last year if Iran had not suspended work, said Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization.

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