The international community said it was losing patience with Iran after news broke that the country had been building a covert nuclear facility for several years, and called on Tehran to open the plant to the UN's nuclear inspectors. German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the revelation of the second nuclear site as "a grave development" and called on Iran to answer questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency about it "as quickly as possible".
Germany is one of six countries meeting next week with Iran to try to convince Tehran to abandon its nuclear programme. Mrs Merkel said she would wait to see the reactions of Russia and China, which are part of the October 1 meeting but which have been more reluctant to take a firm line on Iran. Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said she hoped Iran's revelation that it had a second fuel site near the holy city of Qom would win over those who doubted the US "dual track" strategy of threatening sanctions while offering incentives to Iran to abandon enriching uranium.
Susan Rice, US ambassador to the UN, said the revelation placed greater emphasis on the October 1 talks. "This is a very crucial opportunity for Iran to come clean and create a greater degree of confidence in its declared non-military intentions and to provide full transparency," she said. Russia, which earlier this week opened the door to backing potential new sanctions against Iran as a reward to Mr Obama's decision to scale back a US missile shield in Eastern Europe, appeared to be losing patience with Tehran.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the plant was "a source of serious concern" and violated several demands by the Security Council for Iran to halt all enrichment activities. It urged Iran to show "convincing proof of its intention to develop nuclear energy solely for peaceful aims" at the October 1 talks. "Exposed evidence that Iran is building a new enrichment plant only strengthens our determination to achieve concrete and verifiable results in the nearest future," Mr Medvedev said in a statement.
China, which has consistently opposed sanctions, called for dialogue and urged Tehran to work with the IAEA. An Israeli defence official, reacting to the revelation, told the Wall Street Journal: "Nothing surprises us. We know the direction that Iran is going. We think it's a problem for the whole world." The official declined to comment on whether Israel knew about the specific installation, though he predicted there would be more revelations about the Iranian nuclear programme.
"They have a good reason to cover up what they are doing," he said. The official said the international commission on atomic energy has not been making enough of an effort to expose the extent of the nuclear programme. He said he hoped the revelation would help prod the US into more forceful action. "It should strengthen the realisation among the Americans that the Iranians are making a joke of them and playing for time," he said.
"There is the beginning of an understanding in the West and in Russia, that [Iran's nuclear programme] is advancing to a place where they don't want to." firstname.lastname@example.org