VIENNA (AP) — The head of the U.N. atomic agency is planning a trip to Tehran to push for long-delayed interviews with Iranian scientists linked to alleged past work on nuclear arms, two diplomats said Friday.
The planned trip is significant. International Atomic Energy chief Yukiya Amano would be traveling less than a month before an Oct. 15 deadline to gather information on allegations that Iran tried to build atomic weapons.
A final U.N. assessment is due in December, and that will feed into the larger July 14 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, helping to determine whether sanctions on Iran will be lifted.
The diplomats said Amano might leave for Tehran as early as this weekend. IAEA spokesman Frederik Dahl said Amano was considering a visit but details were still being finalized. He declined to go into details about the IAEA chief's agenda.
The diplomats said Amano also will be discussing an inspection of Parchin, a site where some of the alleged experiments took place. The diplomats, who are accredited to the IAEA, demanded anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss Amano's agenda.
The interviews and the Parchin inspection are crucial to IAEA's goal of wrapping up more than a decade of IAEA efforts to probe the allegations.
Iran denies any work on — or interest in — nuclear weapons. It says IAEA suspicions are based on false intelligence from the United States, Israel and other adversaries. In refusing access to scientists the agency is interested in, Iran cites past assassinations of several experts it says worked on peaceful nuclear programs.
After allowing a previous visit to Parchin that the IAEA now says went to a false area unconnected to the alleged experiments, Tehran has kept the IAEA away from the sprawling military site southeast of Tehran. The agency believes Iranian scientists experimented there with explosives meant to set off a nuclear charge.
While there is now agreement on Parchin, the terms diverge from the usual practice of having IAEA experts do the inspecting.
A draft document seen by The Associated Press stipulates that Iranian staff will collect environmental samples at the site after providing the IAEA with photos and videos of the areas where the samples will be collected. It makes no mention of any physical IAEA presence near the sampling sites.
White House and State Department officials have confirmed the existence of the draft. They say they are satisfied that the arrangements for Parchin will allow the IAEA to do its job but have refused demands from U.S. congress and others to make it public, saying they are governed by confidentiality rules agreed to by Iran and the agency. The IAEA also has refused to detail the arrangement, saying only that it meets its stringent inspection requirements.
In a tweet last week, chief Iranian IAEA delegate Reza Najafi said Parchin "is a military site and Iran will not let any inspector go there."
One of the diplomats said that as of Friday, the terms detailed in the draft stand.