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. Iranian official hints no inspections at suspect nuclear site anytime soon
VIENNA (AFP) Jun 15, 2005
A senior Iranian negotiator hinted Wednesday that UN nuclear inspectors would not be visiting the Parchin military site in Iran, where the United States says weapons work is going on, anytime soon.

Cyrus Nasseri told AFP that any such inspections of the Parchin and Lavizan military sites would be "transparency" visits, beyond the inspections that are required by the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iran is ready "with an open mind to come to an agreement on modalities" for these visits but "first things come first" and "other issues have to be made clear," Nasseri said, referring to safeguards matters such as questions about centrifuges and uranium contamination on imported equipment.

Visits to sites like Parchin are beyond nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) safeguards requirements, which are limited to inspecting sites where there is sure to be nuclear material.

Washington, which charges that Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, has voiced concern the Iranians may be testing high-explosive charges with an inert core of depleted uranium at Parchin, 30 kilometres (20 miles) southeast of Tehran, as a sort of dry test for how a bomb with fissile material would work.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei had Tuesday told a meeting of the agency's board of governors in Vienna that he had urged Iran to let IAEA inspectors visit Parchin and Lavizan.

ElBaradei said this was to get "access to dual-use equipment and other information related to the Lavizan-Shian site and... additional agency visits to areas of interest at the Parchin site." Dual-use equipment can be used for either peaceful or military purposes.

The IAEA has been investigating Iran's nuclear program since February 2003

Nasseri, who is here with the Iranian delegation to the IAEA board meeting this week, said another problem is that "these transparency issues need confidentiality."

"We just have to make sure they are done more properly," Nasseri said, referring to leaks to the press on the investigation into Parchin and Lavizan, which are military sites.

Iran has refused to let UN nuclear inspectors follow up on a first visit to the Parchin military facility in January.

IAEA inspectors want to return to the sprawling site since they have only seen five out of what are a much larger number of buildings.

Iran has also refused to answer IAEA questions about Lavizan in Tehran, where there was suspicion of nuclear-related activities, Pierre Goldschmidt, the agency's deputy director general for safeguards, said at the previous IAEA board meeting in March.

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

Diplomats told AFP the agency had requested but been denied access so far to interview key officials such as Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a brigadier general who has worked at Lavizan.

Nasseri said however that as a number of questions including about uranium contamination on imported equipment were being resolved, the IAEA investigation was "coming to an end anyway" and was "just down to a few nitty-grittys."

"We think the whole thing could have been over long ago," Nasseri said.

But he said the "agency has been prudent. This is an approach we understand. So we want to come to a fair conclusion."

Nasseri said he hoped the investigation could end when the board next meets in September.

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