Atomic Watchdog barking: Iran refutes access to Parchin military complex

Posted on February 22, 2012

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Hopes for defusing the Iranian nuclear crisis were thwarted Wednesday when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran did not agree to clear up nuclear weapons allegations and refused access to a site during a visit by senior agency officials.

“It is disappointing that Iran did not accept our request to visit Parchin during the first or second meetings,” said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, referring to a military site where a simulated nuclear warhead was allegedly tested.

“We engaged in a constructive spirit, but no agreement was reached,” he said.

Parchin is is an Iranian military complex, located about 30 km southeast of Tehran. To the northwest of Parchin in the Barjamali Hills, a test range for liquid-propellant missile engines is part of the Shahid Hemat Industrial Group (SHIG) research facility.

Although under the NPT rules Iran is not required to allow inspectors into its military bases, on January 13, 2005, IAEA inspectors were allowed partial access to the Parchin military base as a confidence building measure.

Back then the IAEA’s 2006 report indicated that “The Agency did not observe any unusual activities in the buildings visited, and the results of the analysis of environmental samples did not indicate the presence of nuclear material at those locations.” Visual inspection showed that sites were not as capable as suggested by satellite imagery.

Amano’s statement came hours before a senior team of IAEA officials was expected to return from Tehran to Vienna after a second round of talks with Iranian nuclear officials that was accompanied by rising tensions between Iran and Israel.

The world’s nuclear watchdog said it had made intensive efforts to agree on a document that outlines how Iran would answer outstanding questions about its suspect nuclear activities and give access to documents, officials and locations.

“Unfortunately, agreement was not reached on this document,” the IAEA said.

Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday that the senior IAEA team had not come to inspect sites but to hold talks.

However, a Vienna-based diplomat closely following the issue said the delegation had in fact wanted to visit Parchin, 30 kilometres south-east of Tehran, during two trips late last month and this week in addition to asking for access in the future.

Since 2008, Iran has refused to answer the IAEA’s questions about alleged nuclear weapons research and development projects. The IAEA has made clear that these activities appear to cover all key stages of developing and testing components for such arms, judging from its own information gathering and from intelligence material.

Iranian leaders said the intelligence findings were fabricated and it pursues nuclear technology only for electricity and other civilian uses.

Iran on Monday began a military exercise to prepare the defence of its nuclear sites amid growing tensions with Israel. The country has not ruled out the possibility of military strikes to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. The United States has been trying to persuade Israel not to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to recent media reports.

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