TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's president hit back Saturday at President Obama's accusation that his country had sought to hide its construction of a new nuclear site, arguing that Tehran reported the facility to the U.N. even earlier than required.
The Iranian president defended his government's actions as the head of the U.N.' s nuclear monitoring agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, arrived Saturday to arrange an inspection of the uranium enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom.
The revelation that Iran has been building a new nuclear plant has heightened the concern of the U.S. and many of its allies, which suspect Tehran is using a civilian nuclear program as a cover for developing a weapons-making capability. Iran denies such an aim, saying it only wants to generate energy.
Obama and the leaders of France and Britain accused Iran of keeping the construction hidden from the world for years. The U.S. president said last month that Iran's actions "raised grave doubts" about its promise to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes only.
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ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has also said Tehran was "on the wrong side of the law" over the new plant and should have revealed its plans as soon as it decided to build the facility.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad challenged that view in a speech Saturday, saying that Iran voluntarily revealed the facility to the IAEA in a letter on Sept. 21. He said that was one year earlier than necessary under the agency's rules.
Iran agreed to allow U.N. inspectors into the facility at a landmark meeting with six world powers near Geneva on Thursday that put nuclear talks back on track and included the highest-level bilateral contact with the U.S. in three decades.
Iranian officials argue that under IAEA safeguard rules, a member nation is required to inform the U.N. agency about the existence of a nuclear facility six months before introducing nuclear material into the machines.