VIENNA, Austria - Iran may be hiding equipment from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, foiling efforts to police a freeze of all programs that Tehran could use to make nuclear weapons, diplomats said Thursday.
The diplomats told The Associated Press that Iran has yet to respond to a request by the International Atomic Energy Agency the U.N. nuclear watchdog for a full list of the components used at the suspected military site of Lavizan-Shian after handing over a partial inventory in October.
The incomplete inventories are particularly worrying because they reflect purchases by Iran's Physics Research Center, an organization run by the military, they said. Iran has insisted its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes, and the agency has said it has found no direct evidence to challenge that statement.
A linked issue is concern that nuclear equipment that has disappeared from that complex might be now at a nearby site, said the diplomats, who are accredited to the agency and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Additionally, Tehran has ignored a months-old request to grant IAEA inspectors access to Parchin, a military testing ground linked to possible experiments with high explosives that can be used with nuclear weapons, the diplomats said.
In Washington, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Iran needs to cooperate fully with the IAEA.
After weeks of international pressure, Iran this week agreed to fully suspend its enrichment programs, which it says are meant to make only nuclear fuel. The United States and its allies insist, however, that Iran wants to make warhead-grade uranium.
Some diplomats familiar with Iran's nuclear dossier suggested the focus on the enrichment freeze allowed Tehran to deflect attention from the inventory list, the missing equipment, and the denial of access.
The IAEA has not found any firm evidence to challenge Iranian assertions that its military is not involved nuclear activities.
But an IAEA report in October says Iran's military Physics Research Center only partially responded that month to agency requests "for information concerning efforts ... to acquire dual use materials and equipment that could be useful in uranium enrichment and conversion."
The report said the IAEA continues to await "additional information and clarifications from Iran regarding this matter," and a diplomat said that request remained unfulfilled as of Thursday.
The report expresses linked concern about published intelligence and media reports "relating to dual use equipment and materials which have applications ... in the nuclear military area."
Diplomats said that phrasing alluded to Parchin, a military site 20 miles southeast of Tehran. U.S. intelligence suspects Parchin is being used to test high explosives, possibly for use with nuclear weapons.
Iran has not responded to a months-old IAEA request for access. The agency can demand to inspect only if it has strong suspicions of direct nuclear activity. That is not the case at Parchin high explosives do not normally fall under the agency's purview.
Similarly the agency is waiting for a full inventory of dual-use components that can be used for nuclear programs from the military-operated Physics Research Center, formerly located at Lavizan-Shian.
A Western diplomat familiar with Iran's file said the partial list available includes equipment meant to eliminate power surges that help centrifuges run smoothly, adding that most of the other components also could be used for enrichment.
The U.S. State Department earlier this year said Lavizan-Shian's buildings had been completely dismantled and that top soil had been removed from the site in attempts to hide nuclear-weapons related experiments.
The October IAEA report notes Iran failed to produce for IAEA inspection a trailer that apparently contained nuclear equipment at Lavizan-Shian.
Iranian opposition groups assert nuclear components at that site were moved to a nearby complex, where they say clandestine enrichment is continuing.