Iran’s Parchin Site May Top UN Inspectors’ Meeting Agenda

A United Nations visit to Iran’s Parchin military complex may top the agenda of a two-day meeting between Iranian diplomats and UN nuclear inspectors.

International Atomic Energy Agency officials will meet Iranian envoys at the nation’s embassy in Vienna, according to the IAEA’s public information office. Today’s meeting is the first between the two sides since Iran snubbed inspectors’ request to visit Parchin during a Feb. 21 visit to Tehran.

“We are here to continue our dialogue with Iran in a positive spirit,” the IAEA’s top inspector, Herman Nackaerts, told reporters before the meeting began. “The aim of our two days is to reach an agreement on an approach to resolve all outstanding issues with Iran. In particular, clarification of the possible military dimensions remains our priority.”

Iran and the IAEA began a high-level dialogue in an attempt to address suspicions that the country is pursuing nuclear-weapons capabilities. In a Nov. 8 report, the IAEA cited information provided by a member state and satellite-imagery analysis indicating Iran may have conducted high-explosive tests of components for an atomic weapon at Parchin, 18 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Tehran.

Removing Evidence?

Iran may be erasing evidence of nuclear-weapons work at the facility, according to the analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security. Commercial satellite imagery of the Parchin site taken on April 9, compared with a previous image obtained on March 4, shows unidentified items lined up outside a rectangular building and what appears to be water flowing out of the structure.

The country may be cleaning the inside the building and scrubbing items outside the structure because IAEA inspectors expressed an interest in visiting the site, Paul Brannan and David Albright, the Washington-based institute’s president, wrote in a study on its website that shows the satellite images.

The IAEA has pursued questions about Iran’s activities at Parchin for much of the past decade. Because it isn’t a declared nuclear facility, inspectors need special authorization to visit the base, which the IAEA report said may house a test-blast chamber built in 2000. Inspectors found nothing at the site during previous visits in 2004.

“It’s important now that we can engage on the substance on these issues and that Iran let us access people, information, documents and sites,” Nackaerts said.

Baghdad Talks

This week’s meeting in Vienna will be followed by a round of talks between Iranian diplomats and their counterparts from China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. on May 23 in Baghdad.

“Any miscalculation by the West will prevent the negotiations from being successful,” the state-run Mehr news agency cited Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, as saying yesterday in Tehran. “In Baghdad we will wait for a measure that will win the confidence of the Iranian nation.”

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak criticized what he called the “minimalist” demands being made of Iran by the six nations, saying the Persian Gulf nation must stop all uranium enrichment.

“The current requirements for entering into the talks with the West are so minimalist, that even if Iran accepts them it will still be able to advance its nuclear program,” Barak said today in an interview with Israel’s Army Radio. “There is a need to completely halt all uranium enrichment in Iran.”

IAEA inspectors verified in February that Iran continued to produce low-enriched uranium in contravention to UN Security Council demands that the country suspend its nuclear work. Uranium enriched to low levels can power atomic-energy plants and create medical isotopes. When highly enriched to weapons grade, uranium can be used to make the core of a nuclear bomb.

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