IAEA chief: Deal allowing Iran to inspect Parchin ‘technically sound’

IAEA chief: Deal allowing Iran to inspect Parchin ‘technically sound’

Yukiya Amano says media coverage ‘misrepresents’ verification process; Israel demands all agreements be made public

Yukiya Amano of Japan, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna, Austria, June 2, 2014 (AP/Ronald Zak)
Yukiya Amano of Japan, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna, Austria, June 2, 2014 (AP/Ronald Zak)

The head of the international atomic weapons watchdog said Thursday he was “disturbed” by the media’s reporting on a secret agreement between Iran and world powers that will let Tehran probe a suspected nuclear military site itself.

IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano issued a statement Thursday saying the Wednesday Associated Press report that “suggested” the nuclear watchdog handed over responsibility of nuclear inspections at the Parchin site to the Islamic Republic was a misrepresentation of the agency’s inspection process.

“I am disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran. Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work,” he wrote.

On Wednesday, the AP reported that confidential side agreement allows for IAEA staff to monitor Iranian personnel as they inspect the suspected nuclear site at the Parchin complex instead of carrying out their own probe.

Following the report, Israel said it was demanding the full publication of all parts of the agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency on Tehran’s past nuclear activity, according to diplomatic officials.

“There is just one safe way to verify this report: for the world powers to publicize all appendixes to the nuclear deal with Iran,” an official said on condition of anonymity

While noting the Iran-IAEA side deal concerning inspection of military facilities remained confidential, Amano said the arrangements were “technically sound and consistent with our long-established practices. They do not compromise our safeguards standards in any way.”

His comments followed the White House saying it was “confident” in the abilities of the IAEA to monitor and inspect the possible military dimensions on Iran’s past nuclear work and was “comfortable” with confidential arrangements between the IAEA and Tehran to ensure compliance with the nuclear deal signed on July 14.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman of Iran’s nuclear agency, was quoted on state TV calling the AP report “media speculation” without denying its substance.

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)

According to the AP report, Iran will provide agency experts with photos and videos of locations the IAEA says are linked to the alleged weapons work, “taking into account military concerns.”

That wording suggests that — beyond being barred from physically visiting the site — the agency won’t get photo or video information from areas Iran says are off-limits because they have military significance.

IAEA experts would normally take environmental samples for evidence of any weapons development work, but the agreement stipulates that Iranian technicians will do the sampling.

The IAEA inspection of Parchin is linked to a broader probe of allegations that Iran has worked on atomic weapons in the past. That investigation is part of the overarching nuclear deal reached last month between Tehran and six world powers.

The Parchin deal is a side agreement worked out directly between the IAEA and Iran, and is not linked directly to the multilateral nuclear deal signed on July 14. The United States and five other world powers that signed the nuclear agreement were not party to the Parchin deal but were briefed on it by the IAEA and endorsed it as part of the larger package. Without divulging its contents, the Obama administration had previously described the document as nothing more than a routine technical arrangement between Iran and the IAEA on the particulars of inspecting the site.

The IAEA spokesman added that the organization was required by law not to reveal the details of its agreements with Iran.

IAEA inspectors at Iran's nuclear power plant in Natanz on January 20, 2014. (IRNA/AFP Kazem Ghane)
IAEA inspectors at Iran’s nuclear power plant in Natanz on January 20, 2014. (IRNA/AFP Kazem Ghane)


The IAEA also endorsed the side deal, and called it “consistent with the IAEA verification practice and they meet the IAEA requirements,” an agency spokesperson said Thursday.

Iran has refused access to Parchin for years. Based on US, Israeli and other intelligence and its own research, the IAEA suspects that the Islamic Republic may have experimented with high-explosive detonators for nuclear arms at that military facility. The IAEA has also repeatedly cited evidence, based on satellite images, of possible attempts to sanitize the site since the alleged work stopped more than a decade ago.

John Cornyn, a leading Republican Senator, called the IAEA agreement “remarkably naive and incredibly reckless.”

Israel has repeatedly slammed the nuclear deal concluded by the P5+1 powers and Iran, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu branding it a historic mistake that will both pave Iran’s path to the bomb and, by lifting sanctions, cement the Islamist regime in power and allow it to fund more terrorist activity and other dangerous regional interventions.

AP contributed to this report.

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