IAEA officials meet in Iran over nuclear concerns
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IAEA officials meet in Iran over nuclear concerns

Visit comes day after massive blast reported near suspected nuclear site south of Tehran

Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Reza Najafi, arrives in Vienna for a new round of nuclear talks on Monday, May 12, 2014. (photo credit: Dieter Nagl/AFP)
Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Reza Najafi, arrives in Vienna for a new round of nuclear talks on Monday, May 12, 2014. (photo credit: Dieter Nagl/AFP)

Inspectors from the UN’s atomic watchdog are due to meet Iranian official in Tehran Tuesday over efforts to gain access to nuclear facilities, a day after reports emerged of a deadly blast at a suspected nuclear site.

An International Atomic Energy Agency delegation, headed by deputy director general and head of the department of safeguards Tero Tapio Varjoranta, is to hold fresh talks with Iranian officials to discuss oversight measures of Iran’s nuclear program, widely believed to be for weaponization purposes.

Diplomats said last week that inspectors will continue to lobby for greater access to suspected nuclear facilities, Reuters reported.

The official IRNA news agency said the visitors were expected in the capital on Monday night ahead of talks with Iranian officials.

“The visit of Tero Varjoranta, deputy director general of the IAEA, and a delegation will continue discussions to finalize the last two points” on which an explanation from Iran is sought, it said.

Those two questions — to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran — focus on concerns that the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities have military dimensions.

The Vienna-based IAEA disclosed in September that Iran had failed to meet an August 25 deadline to provide information on five points meant to allay fears it was developing nuclear weapons.

One of the IAEA’s questions centers on Iran’s purported experiments with large scale high explosives.

Under an agreement reached in November 2013 with the IAEA, Iran has already responded to 16 of the 18 issues the agency identified as relevant to Iran’s nuclear activities.

The IAEA visit comes a day after two people were reported to have been killed in an explosion at a defense ministry plant east of Tehran.

The Defense Industries Organization, quoted by IRNA, said a fire broke out at the plant on Sunday night but it gave no further details.

This 2004 satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe and the Institute for Science and International Security shows the military complex at Parchin, Iran, 30 km (about 19 miles) southeast of Tehran. (photo credit: AP Photo/DigitalGlobe - Institute for Science and International Security)
This 2004 satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe and the Institute for Science and International Security shows the military complex at Parchin, Iran, 30 km (about 19 miles) southeast of Tehran. (photo credit: AP Photo/DigitalGlobe – Institute for Science and International Security)

The BBC, citing a report from the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency, reported on Monday that the incident happened in an “explosive materials production unit” at the site southeast of the capital Tehran. According to ISNA the blast was so powerful it shattered windows up to 12 kilometers away and the glare from the explosion lit up the night sky.

Several arms facilities and military bases are located east of the Iranian capital, including Parchin. UN nuclear inspectors have been seeking to visit the site to answer concerns about Iran’s atomic program. The base lies at the center of allegations of past Iranian research into sophisticated explosives that can be used to detonate a nuclear warhead.

Tehran, which has denied IAEA inspectors access to Parchin since 2005, insists its nuclear program is for purely civilian uses.

In August Iran reiterated again that it will not allow IAEA inspectors to visit the site, even though Tehran has vowed to cooperate with the IAEA as part of talks with world powers aimed at reaching a lasting agreement on its contested nuclear program. Western nations long have suspected Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.

Satisfying the IAEA’s concerns is considered crucial to a hoped for conclusion by November 24 of a comprehensive nuclear agreement with the United States and other world powers.

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Western negotiators should never expect that Iran will give up the rights to nuclear development, and insinuated that regional conflicts in the Middle East were to blame for the focus on Tehran’s nuclear program.

“For the time being, the western governments have led Iran to the conclusion that the nuclear dispute should be settled soon,” Zarif said, according to official news agency IRNA.

The nuclear issue is “a crisis which has been stirred by certain players in the region and is a cover to justify their short-term and strategic goals in the region,” he added.

Iran and world powers have set a deadline in November to reach a final deal after reaching an interim accord last year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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