IAEA chief: No further visit needed at suspect nuclear site

IAEA chief: No further visit needed at suspect nuclear site

Amano says UN atomic agency 'can move forward' with Parchin probe using samples drawn by Iran; his visit there last week was said by Iran to be 'ceremonial'

UN nuclear chief Yukiya Amano on May 12, 2015 in Vienna, Austria. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, File)
UN nuclear chief Yukiya Amano on May 12, 2015 in Vienna, Austria. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, File)

The head of the UN nuclear agency said a second visit to Iran’s Parchin military facility was not necessary, after Tehran handed over environmental samples last week from the site suspected of being used for furtive nuclear activity.

Yukiya Amano, recently returned from Iran, told the Russian RIA Novosti news agency another visit to the contested site was unlikely.

“I don’t think so. We have already some samples,” he said, responding to a question about a second visit. The IAEA “can move forward” with the evidence provided by the Islamic Republic, he said.

Amano visited Parchin last week after years of the IAEA trying to gain access to the site to clear up suspicions of nuclear work there.

Iranian officials described the visit as ceremonial, and said Iranian nuclear officials had taken samples which they then handed over to the UN’s nuclear watchdog for analysis.

The samples were taken under the framework of a roadmap deal between Tehran and the IAEA reached alongside thew landmark nuclear deal with six world powers.

According to Iranian media reports, Amano met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York on Saturday to discuss the implementation of the nuclear deal.

Amano pushed back on Thursday against critics questioning the wisdom of letting Iranian experts take samples meant to help determine whether their own country clandestinely worked in the past on atomic arms, saying he is convinced the process was faultless.

Amano spoke to The Associated Press less than a week after confirming that Iranians did the environmental sampling at a site where such alleged experiments took place. Personnel from his International Atomic Energy Agency normally do the work of swiping equipment and sampling the soil and air at sites they suspect was used for hidden nuclear activities.

Noting that the Iranians were under stringent IAEA monitoring, Amano said he was confident “so far” that the samples were genuine. He appeared to go further on Thursday, however. While declining to say how far his agency’s laboratory analysis has gone, he said he is “very sure that … the samples are authentic.”

The alleged test of explosive triggers for a nuclear bomb at the Parchin military site is one of about a dozen suspected experiments linked to such a weapon that the IAEA has been trying to probe for more than a decade. Iran denies ever working on such arms and says its present nuclear program is meant only to generate power and for science and medicine.

Satellite image of the Parchin facility in April (photo credit: Institute for Science and International Security/AP)
Satellite image of the Parchin facility, April 2012 (AP/Institute for Science and International Security)

But it is in Tehran’s interest to help work toward a final IAEA assessment of the allegations scheduled for December 15. That report will feed into the larger July 14 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers and so help determine whether all sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear program will be lifted.

Amano, who met President Hassan Rouhani and other senior Iranian officials last week in Tehran, said they are keen to wrap up the probe and “would like to further accelerate the process.”

Critical Republicans continue to focus on Parchin, even after a failed attempt this month to have Congress reject the overarching July 14 nuclear deal swapping sanctions relief for cuts in Iran’s current atomic activities.

They assert that giving Iranian officials the right to collect samples there not only amounts to “self-inspection” of the site but also is emblematic of what they say were unnecessary concessions are to Tehran in the July 14 agreement.

Amano rejected such interpretations, saying that through state of the art video, photo and global positioning system monitoring, “we are very sure that the integrity of the (sampling) process is assured.” He declined to say whether IAEA personnel were at the site southeast of Tehran during the sampling.

However, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA said the samples were taken without any outside monitors.

Amano, in comments made while flying to this week’s UN General Assembly, also said it was too early to draw conclusions from what Iranian media describe as a weekend courtesy visit by him to the building where the alleged experiments took place.

Citing satellite imagery, the IAEA has expressed concern that what it describes as extensive renovations at the site over the years have diminished agency attempts to sleuth the building for evidence of the alleged weapons work.

Their visit was separate from the environmental sampling. Amano said he and as deputy had “not seen any equipment” that could be linked to the alleged tests during their visit, but added: “Renovation activities were ongoing.”

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