Is Iran coming clean about its secret nuclear site? Not likely.

Iran said Tuesday that it would open the site near Qom to international inspectors. But it didn't promise much cooperation.

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

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    Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi looks on while attending a news conference in Tehran on Tuesday.
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Iran on Tuesday said international inspectors can come visit its newly revealed uranium enrichment facility. But that does not necessarily mean Tehran has decided to come clean about the buried plant, located near the city of Qom.

Iranian officials provided no specifics of any such visit, saying only that they would schedule one soon. Nor did they say whether they would accept such intrusive measures as allowing inspectors to interview the scientists and other personnel who work at the site.

"It's not a good sign that they're going to open up and reveal what's going on," says David Albright, a former weapons inspector and president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

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Representatives of the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany, are slated to meet with Iran for talks in Geneva Thursday.

Iran provided a few new details about the enrichment facility at press conference held by Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi in Tehran.

The site is at the base of a mountain and was placed adjacent to a military base to help protect it against aerial attack. If it had been placed elsewhere Iran would have had to go to the trouble and expense of surrounding it with its own ground-to-air defense system, said Mr. Salehi, who also heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

Iran is in talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to schedule a plant inspection, said Salehi. But he insisted that Iran would not halt uranium enrichment and conversion.

"We will never bargain over our sovereign right," said Salehi.

Iran's offer of inspections is not a concession, says James Acton, an associate in the nonproliferation program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The IAEA has the legal right to look at the site whenever it wants to, under the terms of Iran's basic safeguards agreement with the agency, says Mr. Acton.

"I'm sure they will allow something," says Acton. "The question is, will they allow inspections as often as the IAEA wants, and as intrusive as the IAEA wants?"

For instance, inspectors allowed into the Qom facility likely will want to do some environmental sampling. This could help determine whether any enrichment activities have already occurred there.

Now that the Qom facility has been revealed to the world, it is also possible that Iran will move on and construct an entirely new covert enrichment plant somewhere else.

In fact, other such sites may exist already.

"No level of inspections is going to give you confidence that there aren't undeclared enrichment plants," says Mr. Albright of ISIS. "That's the nature of [the West's] whole experience with Iran."

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