U.N. nuclear agency to push Iran on military site access (REUTERS) By Fredrik Dahl VIENNA, AUSTRIA 05/14/12 1:31pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - The United Nations nuclear watchdog signaled on Monday it
would press Iran for access to a military installation where it
suspects Iran has built a chamber for high-explosive tests that could
serve to develop atomic bombs.
The Vienna talks will test Iran´s readiness to address U.N.
inspectors´ suspicions of military dimensions to its nuclear program,
ahead of broader-ranging talks on the program´s future in Baghdad
next week between Tehran and six world powers.
Iran, which rejects Western accusations it seeks nuclear arms, has so
far resisted requests by the International Atomic Energy Agency to
visit the extensive Parchin complex southeast of Tehran. The issue
was expected to be raised during a high-level May 14-15 meeting in
Vienna between Iran and the IAEA.
"It is important now ... that Iran let us have access to people,
documents, information and sites," IAEA Deputy Director General
Herman Nackaerts told reporters as he arrived for the talks at an
Iranian diplomatic mission in Austria´s capital.
His team of senior IAEA officials and experts left the building after
about five hours, declining any comment to media waiting outside. The
meeting will resume on Tuesday.
Iranian state television said: "The first round of talks has been
evaluated as positive." It did not elaborate.
An IAEA report last November found that Iran had built a large
containment vessel in 2000 at the Parchin site in which to conduct
tests that the U.N. agency said were "strong indicators of possible
(nuclear) weapon development".
It said a building was constructed "around a large cylindrical
object". An earth berm between the building containing the cylinder
and a neighboring building indicated the probable use of high
explosives in the chamber.
The IAEA said it had obtained satellite images that were consistent
with this information. The vessel was designed to contain the
detonation of up to 70 kg of high explosives.
Israel - widely believed to hold the Middle East´s only nuclear
arsenal - and the United States have not ruled out military action to
prevent Iran from obtaining atomic bombs if negotiations fail to
achieve this goal peacefully.
Western diplomats say they suspect Iran is now cleaning the Parchin
site to remove incriminating evidence. A U.S. security institute said
last week that satellite imagery showed activity there which it said
raised concern that Iran may be "washing" the building the IAEA wants
A Western diplomat told Reuters he had seen other images also
suggesting a clean-up operation at Parchin, including a stream of
water apparently coming from the building.
Iran´s Foreign Ministry spokesman has dismissed the allegations,
saying nuclear activities cannot be washed away.
But the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), the
Washington-based think-tank which published the satellite image last
week, said this was incorrect.
"The concern is that washing could be incorporated into an effort to
cleanse the building. The process could involve grinding down the
surfaces inside the building, collecting the dust and then washing
the area thoroughly. This could be followed with new building
materials and paint," it said.
A senior Iranian lawmaker, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, did not rule out a
possible IAEA visit to Parchin. "Naturally, agreements are always
reached behind the negotiating table and parliament will respect any
agreement reached by Iranian representatives," he told ISNA news
agency when asked about the U.N. body´s request.
Nackaerts, head of the IAEA´s nuclear inspections worldwide, said
Tehran must now engage on substance with the agency in its nuclear
investigation, after years of stonewalling.
Two previous rounds of talks in Tehran this year with U.N. inspectors
failed to make any notable progress, especially on their request to
go to Parchin.
"The aim ... is to reach agreement on an approach to resolve all
outstanding issues with Iran," Nackaerts said. "In particular,
clarification of the possible military dimensions remains our
Nackaerts did not name any sites, but IAEA Director General Yukiya
Amano said earlier this month that gaining access to Parchin would be
the priority for the IAEA in the talks.
"Some IAEA officials see Tehran´s refusal of access as a challenge to
the IAEA´s primacy in setting the agenda for inspections, and for
that reason the IAEA will continue to request access to that site as
a matter of principle," said Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for
Western diplomats will be watching the discussions for any sign that
Iran is now ready to make concrete concessions, saying this would
send a positive message ahead of the Baghdad talks.
Iran and the powers involved in nuclear diplomacy - the United
States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - revived
negotiations in Istanbul last month after a 15-month hiatus and both
sides say they hope for progress in Baghdad.
The resumption of diplomacy offers a chance to defuse tension that
has led the United States and the European Union to try to block
Iran´s oil exports through sanctions, and increased worries about a
new Middle East war.
UK WARNS ON SANCTIONS
The West suspects Iran is seeking to develop the capability to make
nuclear bombs, although intelligence officials believe Tehran has not
made a decision whether to actually build them.
The Islamic Republic, one of the world´s largest oil producers, says
its atomic program is a peaceful quest to generate more electricity
for a rapidly growing population.
Iran "will not retreat even one iota from its fundamental rights,"
Iranian media quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying, showing
traditional defiance in the face of Western demands on Iran to curb
the nuclear program.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the European Union
wanted to see "concrete steps and proposals" from Iran.
"Without that, of course we have sanctions we have imposed. They will
not only be enforced but, over time, intensified," he told reporters
before a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
Iran has suggested that a broader agreement with the IAEA - which
regularly monitors Iran´s declared nuclear sites - on how to address
outstanding questions should be reached before it would consider
letting inspectors into Parchin.
Western diplomats see this as a stalling tactic and do not expect
Iran suddenly to allow access to Parchin.
A Western priority is for Iran to halt the higher-grade uranium
enrichment work it started two years ago and has since expanded,
potentially shortening the time needed to build a bomb. Iran wants
the Baghdad meeting to yield a deal on an easing of sanctions,
something the West will be reluctant to consider before seeing
Refined uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power plants, which are
Iran´s stated goal, or provide material for bombs if processed
further, which the West suspects is the country´s ultimate intention.
(Additional reporting by Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
(© Thomson Reuters 2012. 05/14/12)
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