Reuters: Inspectors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog will soon visit the Parchin military complex in Iran, where the United States suspects Tehran has been conducting secret atomic weapons work, Western diplomats said Friday.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said last month there were no indications that Parchin was a nuclear weapons site, but U.S. officials said ElBaradei was not qualified to make such a statement without having inspected the site.
Reuters

By Louis Charbonneau

VIENNA - Inspectors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog will soon visit the Parchin military complex in Iran, where the United States suspects Tehran has been conducting secret atomic weapons work, Western diplomats said Friday.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said last month there were no indications that Parchin was a nuclear weapons site, but U.S. officials said ElBaradei 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, 30 km 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 U.N. requests to visit the site, saying inspectors had never asked to go there.

"They asked to go there and Iranians have told the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) that they can go to Parchin," a Western diplomat close to the IAEA told Reuters.

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

A nuclear expert who follows the IAEA closely told Reuters on condition of anonymity that 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.

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 to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which can impose economic sanctions, for hiding potentially weapons-related nuclear activities for 18 years.

AMMUNITION, ROCKETS AND EXPLOSIVES

An IAEA resolution passed last month ordered Iran to 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 freeze all activities on uranium enrichment.

Friday a leading Iranian cleric said his country would never be bullied into giving up its nuclear program but denied an weapons' ambitions.

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

"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 program and wants it reported to the Security Council. Tehran vehemently denies the accusation.

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

David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector and head of the Institute for Science and International Security, said Parchin was a "huge site dedicated to the research, development, and production of ammunition, rockets, and high explosives."

A senior U.S. official told Reuters last month that Iran had refused to allow the U.N. into Parchin, which he said was a strong indication that it was a nuclear weapons site.

He also accused the IAEA of suppressing information on Parchin in its latest Iran report -- a charge the agency denied.

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