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Sources: Brazil blocks nuclear inspectors

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International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Latin America
Nuclear Policies

(CNN) -- The Brazilian government and U.N. nuclear inspectors are at odds over inspections of an under-construction, uranium-enrichment facility near Rio de Janeiro, sources close to the International Atomic Energy Agency said Sunday.

The sources confirmed a report in The Washington Post that Brazil was refusing to allow IAEA inspectors to see the facility's equipment in order to protect proprietary information.

The Brazilians say their plant's production will be limited to low-enriched uranium for power plants and will not produce the much higher-enriched uranium used for nuclear weapons.

The sources said the agency and Brazil's government are still "working on" the matter.

The Post report said IAEA inspectors arrived at the plant but found large parts of it behind walls and coverings.

Representatives of the agency would not comment on the report.

Brazil renounced its nuclear weapons program in 1990 and signed the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean in 1994. Brazil has also ratified -- but not signed -- the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and ratified and signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The Latin American treaty calls for the IAEA to monitor nuclear facilities to confirm none are capable of building nuclear weapons.

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman and co-author of the Nunn-Lugar bill supporting non-proliferation efforts in the former Soviet Union, said he "didn't understand" why Brazil might refuse to allow the inspectors.

"It is not just a bilateral issue between the United States and Brazil, but rather a worldwide feeling that we want to know as a world about people who have uranium, particularly ideas of refining that uranium," he said.

"I can remember very well, two decades ago talking to Brazilians in Brazil about the possibilities of their working on a nuclear program, which finally they've renounced as a bad idea," he added. "I think they were correct."

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei is expected to deliver a report on Brazil to the agency's board of governors in June. In March, the board adopted a U.S.-backed resolution expressing "serious concern" with Iran's lack of candor about its uranium enrichment facilities.

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