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Iran touts tour of nuclear sites, despite absence of key critics

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Dignitaries from several nations tour Iranian nuclear facilities, state-run media reports
  • The group did not include representatives from the U.S., UK, Russia, China or France
  • A top official says that the Arak heavy water plant could be exporting fuel in two to three years
  • U.S. Secretary of State Clinton said this week that sanctions against Iran have worked

(CNN) -- Iran's acting foreign minister touted a tour by international dignitaries of its nuclear facilities as a sign of Tehran's goodwill and transparency, state-run media reported, although none of those visitors came from the U.N. Security Council and other countries that have taken issue with its program.

Ali Akabar Salehi, who is also head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said the visit showed Iran "has nothing to hide," according to the state-run Press TV. He claimed that Iran is the first nation to let such officials from other countries look at its nuclear facilities.

The touring group included representatives from Algeria, Cuba, Syria, Oman, Egypt, Venezuela and the League of Arab States, all of whom had been invited by Iranian authorities. Tehran said that they were invited because they represented political and geographic factions tied to the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported Press TV.

The delegation, notably, did not include members of the so-called P5 plus 1 group -- which includes U.N. Security Council members the United States, China, France, Russia and United Kingdom, as well as Germany.

The dignitaries arrived in Tehran on Saturday, visiting and attending a ceremony at the Arak heavy water plant, numerous official media outlets reported. In addition, the semi-official Fars News Agency said that the group visited the Natanz facility, also in central Iran.

Salehi told reporters that the Arak reactor will be operational within the next two to three years, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency, or IRNA. At that time, the plant would produce the radioactive isotopes that Iran needs to produce nuclear power and perhaps more that could be exported abroad, said Salehi.

The United Nations, as well as several individual nations, including the United States, have accused Tehran of working to develop its nuclear program in order to produce weaponry.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on a United Arab Emirates television show earlier this week that tough economic sanctions have helped to slow Iran's nuclear program.

But on Saturday, Salehi -- who was installed last month as foreign minister -- reiterated Tehran's longstanding public stance that it is developing its nuclear program to develop energy, not to make weapons.

"The Iranian nation, with reliance upon Islam, will powerfully stand against the bullying powers," he said, according to IRNA. "Iran does not need WMDs."

At a ceremony at Arak on Saturday, Salehi also announced that Iran could produce deuterated compounds that, according to Press TV, could be used to bolster certain drugs' efficacy and be used in making optic fiber and various polymers.

"Iran has produced five deuterated compounds and scientists are working on projects to produce five to ten more in the future," he said.

A week ago, Salehi told the nation's media that Iran can now make its own nuclear fuel plates and rods.

"With the completion of this facility in Isfahan we are now among the few countries that manufacture both the (nuclear) fuel rod and plate," he told Fars. "In fact, it was the West's (negative) behavior that facilitated our successes."