Iran denies inspectors access to suspected nuclear facility

Atomic energy chief says operations at Arak heavy water reactor to continue; thousands protest nuclear deal in Tehran

2004 satellite image of the military complex at Parchin, Iran. (AP/DigitalGlobe-Institute for Science and International Security)
2004 satellite image of the military complex at Parchin, Iran. (AP/DigitalGlobe-Institute for Science and International Security)

Iran’s atomic energy organization on Saturday said it was denying international inspectors access to the suspected nuclear facility at Parchin, stating the IAEA was not entitled to visit the military complex outside the Iranian capital of Iran.

“Legally, they are not entitled to visit Parchin since we have not accepted and are not exercising the Additional Protocol (to the NPT),” the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran’s Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency saying.

Iran has stated that it has no obligation to grant the IAEA access to the site, arguing that Parchin’s designation as a military site puts it off-limits to inspections and is not included in the deal reached with world powers last year.

The Parchin military site has been a sticking point in long-running discussions between Iran and the IAEA; the agency suspects explosive tests took place that are “strong indicators of possible nuclear weapon development.”

Meanwhile, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the AEOI, told Iranian media Saturday that operations at the heavy water reactor in Arak would continue.

The Arak reactor is of international concern because it could theoretically provide Iran with a second route to a nuclear bomb — an alternative to highly enriched uranium — through extraction of weapons-grade plutonium from spent fuel if it also builds a reprocessing facility.

Iran’s enrichment activities are in defiance of repeated UN Security Council demands and resolutions, amid suspicions in the West and Israel that Tehran’s nuclear drive masks military objectives, a claim it has repeatedly denied.

Thousands of hard-liners in Iran gathered Saturday at the former US Embassy in Tehran to protest against the Islamic Republic’s recent deal with world powers over its contested nuclear program.

Hard-liners carried banners Saturday accusing moderate President Hassan Rouhani and the nation’s nuclear negotiation team of “giving up Iran’s right in return for little.”

Rouhani has faced criticism from hard-liners over the deal struck in November, which they refer to as a “poison chalice.” The temporary deal saw some sanctions lifted against Iran in exchange for it limiting uranium enrichment and allowing in international inspectors.

World powers and Iran are negotiating the terms of a final deal.

AFP contributed to this report. 

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