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. Iran refusing to cooperate with nuclear inspections - UN agency
VIENNA (AFP) Mar 01, 2005
Iran is refusing to cooperate in key areas with UN experts investigating possible atomic weapons work, including blocking a follow-up visit to a military facility where Washington charges Tehran is simulating testing of nuclear weapons, the UN's nuclear watchdog agency said Tuesday.

Iran refused to let UN nuclear inspectors follow up on a first visit to the Parchin military camp, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.

The United States expressed concern over the refusal but said it is not surprised.

"This adds to our concern that Iran is trying to hide something ... Iran has consistently, I think, resisted disclosing its nuclear activity," a State Department official said.

Iran has also refused to answer IAEA questions about the Lavizan site in Tehran where there was suspicion of nuclear activities, Pierre Goldschmidt, the agency's deputy director general for safeguards, told a meeting in Vienna of the 35-nation IAEA board of governors.

In addition, Iran is pressing ahead with work on a heavy-water reactor that can make weapons-grade plutonium, despite an IAEA resolution last September asking the Islamic Republic to refrain from this "as a further confidence-building measure."

And "Iran had failed to report in a timely manner" about tunnels it is building at a uranium conversion facility in Isfahan where nuclear material or equipment can be stored, Goldschmidt said, according to a copy of comments made available to reporters.

IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei had said Monday that Iran must do more to assist IAEA inspections.

This comes as Iran said it would not yield on its right and intentions to make nuclear fuel in its talks with Europeans on getting Tehran to guarantee it is not seeking atomic weapons.

"Fuel production is something we intend to do," said Cyrus Nasseri, who is heading the Iranian delegation at the IAEA meeting.

He said giving up uranium enrichment "is not on the table and it will not be on the table and it should not be on the table."

Britain, France and Germany insist however that Tehran permanently abandon its capacity to produce enriched uranium -- which can be directed to both civil and military uses -- in return for a package of incentives.

The United States charges that Iran has a clandestine nuclear weapons program and wants the IAEA to bring Tehran before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

But ElBaradei says that while Iran hid sensitive nuclear activity for almost two decades, "the jury is still out" on whether Tehran is trying to develop atomic weapons.

The IAEA was clearly signalling its disappointment Tuesday that so many new and old issues remain, two years into the agency's investigation into Iran's nuclear program.

Iran told the IAEA in a message, dated from Sunday, that "there is no justification for any additional visit," to Parchin, Goldschmidt said.

IAEA inspectors want to return to the sprawling Parchin site, which they first visited in January, since they have only seen five out of what are a much larger number of buildings.

Washington has voiced concern the Iranians may be testing high-explosive charges with an inert core of depleted uranium at Parchin, 30 kilometresmiles) southeast of Tehran, as a sort of dry test for how a bomb with fissile material would work.

Tehran has strongly denied carrying out any nuclear-related work at the site and points out that visits to sites like Parchin are beyond safeguards requirements, which are limited to inspecting sites where there is sure to be nuclear material.

Concerning Lavizan, which has been completely razed by the Iranians, the Iranians refused to answer IAEA questions about "dual-use material and equipment that could be useful in uranium enrichment and conversion activities."

In Sunday's note, Iran said the center was "not involved in activities" to be declared under nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) safeguards and that Iran did not have to declare the dual-use items which "could be used in conventional activities."

Goldschmidt did say that Iran has finished processing uranium whose treatment was already under way when Tehran agreed in November to a freeze on nuclear fuel work to prove its atomic intentions were peaceful.

The work, involving the first stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, had sparked concern that Iran was violating its pledge to suspend nuclear fuel processing that could be used to make atomic weapons.

In London Tuesday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took a conciliatory line on tensions with Iran, stressing the role of diplomacy and the Europeans.

But she refused to rule out military action. Asked about the possibility, she said the US "never categorically rules out anything but we are in a state in which diplomacy has time to work, in which we have many other diplomatic arrows in our quiver."

In Tehran, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani said the US did not have the military capacity to attack Iran and was unlikely to commit such an error because the price would be too high.

"I do not think the United States has the capacity to attack Iran," he said he said on state satellite television. "They will not commit such a strategic error because they know the price will be very high."

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