IAEA to inspect 'suspect' site in Iran

Inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog will soon visit the Parchin military complex in Iran, where the United States alleges Tehran has been conducting secret atomic weapons work, Western diplomats said on Friday.

    Al-Baradai: no proof of nuclear weapons activity at the site

    IAEA chief Muhammad al-Baradai previously indicated there were no signs that Parchin was a nuclear weapons site, but US officials said al-Baradai was not qualified to make such a statement without having inspected the site.

    Last month, a prominent nuclear expert said analysis of recent satellite images showed that Parchin, 30km southeast of Tehran, could be a site for research, testing and production of nuclear weapons and should be closely inspected.

    Iran dismissed the charge, insisting there were no nuclear activities at Parchin. It also denied ignoring UN requests to visit the site, saying inspectors had never asked to go there.

    "They asked to go there and Iranians have told the IAEA that they can go to Parchin," a Western diplomat close to the IAEA told Reuters.

    Inspections this month

    It was unclear if the agency would be permitted to take
    environmental samples to test for traces of nuclear materials,
    but IAEA inspectors routinely take samples at all important sites to verify that no undeclared atomic work has been carried out.

    A nuclear expert told Reuters - on condition of anonymity - inspectors were planning to go to Parchin this month, in time to include their observations of the site in next month's crucial progress report.

    The IAEA could report Iran to the
    UN Security Council next month 

    An IAEA spokeswoman declined to comment, saying that inspection locations and times were strictly confidential.

    When the IAEA board of governors meets in November, it is expected to decide whether Iranian activities warrant a report to the UN Security Council.

    Theoretically, the Security Council could then impose economic sanctions to pressure Iran.

    An IAEA resolution passed last month demanded that Iran should answer all outstanding questions and provide prompt access to all sites agency inspectors wanted to visit. 

    While Iran is providing access, it has balked at the IAEA's
    demand that it should freeze all activities on uranium enrichment.

    Defiance in Tehran

    On Friday, a leading Iranian cleric said his country would
    never be bullied into giving up its nuclear programme, but denied having ambitions for weapons-grade development.

    "Iran will never yield to international pressure to abandon
    its home-grown nuclear technology," Ayat Allah Ahmad Jannati, who heads Iran's hard-line Guardian Council - a powerful, unelected supervisory body - told worshippers at prayers in Tehran.

    Jannati said Iran would never
    give up its nuclear programme

    "Americans should know that it is just impossible. You will take this wish to the grave," he added. "We have no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons."

    Washington says Tehran is developing weapons under cover of a civilian atomic energy programme and wants it reported to the Security Council. Tehran vehemently denies the accusation.

    Iranian officials were not available for comment, but a
    diplomat close to the negotiations said Iran had agreed in
    principle to allow IAEA inspectors to visit all sites.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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