Iran might let diplomats visit suspected nuclear site

Reuters News
|
Posted: Aug 27, 2012 8:50 AM
Iran might let diplomats visit suspected nuclear site

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran indicated on Monday it might allow diplomats visiting Tehran for this week's Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit to inspect the Parchin military base, which U.N. nuclear experts say may have been used for nuclear-related explosives tests.

When asked about the possibility, Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mehdi Akhoundzadeh said: "Such a visit is not customary in such meetings ... However at the discretion of authorities, Iran would be ready for such a visit," the Iranian government-linked news agency Young Journalists Club reported.

The tentative offer was made just three days after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) again requested access to Parchin for its inspectors at a meeting in Vienna.

Iran is hosting the NAM summit, which ends on Friday, at a time when the West is trying to isolate the Islamic Republic over suspicions it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran says its atomic program has only peaceful aims.

Any visit to Parchin by NAM representatives would do little to calm Western concerns or those of the IAEA whose talks with the Iranians ended on Friday without agreement.

The U.N. body suspects that Iran has conducted explosives tests in a steel chamber at Parchin relevant for the development of nuclear weapons, possibly a decade ago.

Citing satellite pictures, Western diplomats say they believe Iran in recent months has been cleansing the site where the experiments are believed to have taken place of any evidence of illicit nuclear activity.

The IAEA is voicing growing concern that this would hamper its investigation if it ever gained access to Parchin.

Last week diplomatic sources said Iran had covered the building believed to house the explosives chamber with a tent-like structure, fuelling suspicions about a clean-up there.

Iran says Parchin, a vast, sprawling complex southeast of Tehran, is a conventional military facility and has dismissed allegations about it as "ridiculous".

Monday's Iranian media report did not make clear whether the NAM diplomats would be able to visit the location in Parchin which the IAEA wants to see or only other areas of the complex.

Akhoundzadeh said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is due to attend the NAM summit later in the week, might be able to visit Iran's nuclear sites.

"At the discretion of officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran, there is also the possibility of a visit by the U.N. Secretary General to our country's nuclear centers," YJC quoted Akhoundzadeh as saying.

He said Ban would visit Isfahan, but did not say whether he would go to a uranium processing site near the Iranian city.

U.N. officials were not immediately available for comment.

In early 2011, Iran invited Vienna-based diplomats to tour its nuclear facilities, an offer dismissed by Western states as a ploy by Tehran to appear to show openness while still refusing to give IAEA experts the kind of access they need.

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati in Dubai and Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Editing by Alistair Lyon)