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Iran invites UN inspectors to Arak heavy water reactor

The UN nuclear watchdog agency has not had complete access to the site, which helps control reactor fuel rods, for more than two years.

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US President Barack Obama (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, September 30, 2013. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

For the first time in more than two years, Iran has invited members of the UN nuclear watchdog agency to visit the Arak heavy water plant, according to Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

To the outside world it's unclear exactly what Arak's capabilities are, while some believe it could produce plutonium for a bomb. The visit, scheduled for Dec. 8, could ease nervous minds about the site.

The move comes as a recent agreement in Geneva between Iran, the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany, set a tentative path for the nations to work out their differences over Iran's much-debated nuclear program.

The terms of the accord include Iran reducing its nuclear advances for six months while western nations reduce their sanctions, which have crippled Iran's economy in recent years. The IAEA will attempt to determine if Iran is fulfilling its part of the deal.

The increase in the IAEA's responsibilities likely means the UN nuclear watchdog will have to find a way to expand its operations. 

"This will include the implications for funding and staffing," Amano told the IAEA's 35-nation board, according to Reuters, which cited to a copy of his speech. That means the agency will need more money and staffers. 

"This analysis will take some time. I will consult the board as soon as possible when it has been completed," Amano said. But, he added, "Naturally this requires a significant amount of money and manpower ... I don't think we can cover everything by our own budget."   

Many western nations and Israel suspect Iran is developing nuclear weapons technology that could be used build an atomic bomb. Iran has repeatedly denied this claim, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful and medical purposes. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/131128/iran-invites-un-inspectors-arak-heavy-water-reactor