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. Iran signals military sites off limits to UN nuclear inspectors
TEHRAN (AFP) Dec 05, 2004
Iran said Sunday it was not obliged to allow UN atomic energy agency inspectors to visit military sites alleged to be involved in secret nuclear weapons work, but that it was willing to discuss the issue.

"It is not a matter of unlimited commitments and unlimited inspections," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters when asked if International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) teams would be able to probe two suspect military facilities.

"We will act in accordance with the NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), our duties and responsibilities," Asefi added.

The IAEA is mandated under the NPT to verify that all nuclear material in a country is declared and not being diverted for nuclear weapons purposes, as the United States claims is the case in Iran.

But under the NPT and even its additional protocol -- also signed by Iran -- the agency has limited inspection powers.

The Vienna-based watchdog has asked Iran if it can visit the Parchin military base east of Tehran, where US officials have said the Iranians may be testing "high-explosive shaped charges with an inert core of depleted uranium" as a dry test for how a bomb with fissile material would work.

IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei told AFP in an interview that he had "every reason to expect that Iran will allow us to go" to the site.

But Asefi said Iran has not been officially asked by the IAEA if it can inspect Parchin, although he did add that "we are ready to cooperate within the framework of our commitments with the IAEA."

The IAEA is also researching another site in Tehran, Lavizan II, which the exiled Iranian opposition has alleged is a site involved in the secret enriching of uranium.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely directed at generating electrity, and fiercely denies allegations it is seeking weapons.

The country escaped possible UN sanctions last week after agreeing to a deal with Britain, France and Germany to suspend its controversial fuel cycle work in exchange for a package of incentives.

"A temporary suspension means a short while, not a long time," Asefi said of the suspension.

However he said comments Friday by powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani that the freeze would not last more than six months should not be seen as a firm timeframe. Asefi said Rafsanjani only mentioned six months an "example".

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