IAEA chief visits Iran’s Parchin site amid nuclear weapons probe

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Iran has finally granted the UN nuclear watchdog access to the suspect Parchin military complex on Sunday as part of its probe of alleged nuclear weapons projects, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and his deputy, IAEA chief inspector Tero Varjoranta, visited the site outside Tehran, the IAEA said in a statement.

Inspecting Parchin is central to the weapons investigation, because the IAEA suspects that experiments with high explosives were conducted in Parchin in the past, possibly in association with nuclear materials.

Cooperating with the IAEA’s probe is one key obligation that Iran has to fulfill under its recent wide-ranging agreement with six major powers. This July deal also requires the Islamic Republic to curb its civilian nuclear programme, in return for sanctions relief.

An IAEA spokeswoman did not confirm whether IAEA experts were also on site before or on Sunday for the collecting of dust samples, which are to be analyzed for minute nuclear traces.

However, US nuclear non-proliferation expert David Albright told dpa that “according to my sources, the plan was that sampling take place before Amano and the deputy director general went to the site.”

He could not confirm whether that plan had changed, said Albright, whose Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) think tank in Washington closely follows the activities of the IAEA and the US political scene regarding Iran’s deal with the six powers.

In 2011, the Vienna-based nuclear agency reported that it had identified 12 suspect research and development projects in Iran, including Parchin.

“The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities
relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” said the report, which was based on Western intelligence information from several countries and freely accessible sources.

Iran has denied this charge and had been effectively stalling the IAEA’s probe until its July deal with the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

On the same day that the deal was struck, Iran agreed to a separate arrangement with the IAEA to complete the weapons by mid-October. The IAEA is to report its final assessment by mid-December.

Prior to these deals, Iran’s leaders had especially balked at granting access to military sites, citing national security interests.

Under the IAEA-Iran arrangement, IAEA inspectors are allowed into the Parchin complex but not into the suspect test building itself. Contrary to the IAEA’s usual practice, Iranian experts are to take the samples themselves, while recording their actions by videotape, Albright said.

The samples and videotapes are then to be analyzed by the IAEA.

However, the IAEA has pointed out that it might not find any tell-tale nuclear traces because of the extensive reconstruction and landscaping that has been conducted in Parchin since the 2011 report.

Iranian President Hassan Rowhani insisted Sunday that his country is upholding the conditions of the deal with the six powers.

“We want to dispel all points of contention,” Rowhani said in a meeting with Amano.

The president also agreed to carry out the IAEA’s so-called additional protocol, an intrusive regime of short-notice inspections at nuclear and military sites.

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