Iranian official: We’ll allow ‘managed access’ to military sites

Statements by deputy FM Abbas Araqchi seem to contradict supreme leader’s vow to block access to army facilities

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)

TEHRAN — An Iranian nuclear negotiator said Sunday his team has agreed to grant UN inspectors “managed access” to military sites as part of a deal over its contested nuclear program, in an apparent contradiction of earlier comments by the nation’s supreme leader.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi’s comments, carried by state television, came after he and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attended a closed session of parliament. The report also quoted Araqchi as saying Iranian negotiators rejected demands that its scientists be interviewed.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi’s comments, carried by state television, came after he and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attended a reportedly stormy closed session of parliament.

“Iran has agreed to grant managed access to military sites,” state TV quoted Araghchi as saying Sunday.

Lawmaker Ahmad Shoohani, a member of parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee who attended the closed-door session, said restricted inspections of military sites will be carried out under strict control and specific circumstances.

“Managed access will be in a shape where UN inspectors will have the possibility of taking environmental samples from the vicinity of military sites,” Shoohani said.

It was not immediately clear whether Araqchi’s comments marked a change in the position of Iranian leadership. The deputy FM has said in the past that “restricted inspections” of various suspect facilities may be possible “under strict control and specific circumstances,” but Sunday’s comments appeared to be his first clear statement that inspections of Iran’s military sites may also fall under that category.

Perhaps more significantly, Araqchi’s new statement came after Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week vowed that no such inspections would be allowed.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi (YouTube screen capture/Channel 4 News)
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi (YouTube screen capture/Channel 4 News)

Iran and six world powers are negotiating a final deal over its nuclear program. They face a June 30 deadline.

France’s foreign minister said Wednesday that Iran was demanding more than three weeks’ notice before international inspectors may visit its nuclear sites in the event of a suspected violation of a deal.

Laurent Fabius said Iran was seeking a 24-day period between the reporting of a suspected Iranian violation of the deal’s terms and the time when International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors would be allowed to visit the relevant nuclear site.

Fabius cautioned that “a lot of things can disappear” in 24 days. He said another outstanding question is how international sanctions against Iran might be lifted.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at the Maison des Océans in Paris, March 17, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/KENZO TRIBOUILLARD)
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at the Maison des Océans in Paris, March 17, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/KENZO TRIBOUILLARD)

US officials have been adamant that the emerging deal between Iran and world powers includes safeguards to ensure that Tehran does not break its commitments to curb enrichment activities, and that inspectors would better be able to detect if they did break out toward a bomb under the pact.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned repeatedly that the deal in its current form will pave iran’s path to the bomb.

The West insists that a ruling by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency on the allegations about past activities, based on full Iranian cooperation with an IAEA probe, is essential to be able to understand Tehran’s present nuclear activities

The US and its allies have conditioned full lifting of sanctions on Iran’s willingness to help with the investigation.

Attempts to investigate the allegations by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency have been essentially stalemated for almost a decade. Still, Washington and its allies had hoped that as the nuclear deal emerges with its promise of sanctions relief for Iran, it would soften Tehran’s resistance.

Instead, Iran appeared to be digging in, as nuclear experts from Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Britain France and Germany resumed negotiations in Vienna on a deal.

Tehran has steadfastly refused IAEA requests for visits to suspicious sites and interviews with individuals allegedly involved in secret weapons in agency investigative efforts predating the latest Iran-six nation nuclear negotiations. And on Wednesday, Khamenei appeared to link his veto on such access to the talks themselves.

“No inspection of any military site and interview with nuclear scientists will be allowed” Khamenei told military commanders. “The enemies should know that the Iranian nation and officials will by no means give in to excessive demands and bullying.”

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (photo credit: AP/Office of the Supreme Leader)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (photo credit: AP/Office of the Supreme Leader)

Iran tentatively agreed to open its atomic activities to greater scrutiny as part of the deal. Specifically, Iran agreed to implement what is known as the IAEA’s “Additional Protocol” when it agreed to the outlines of the deal now being worked on.

That is expected to give the agency more intrusive powers to monitor whether Iran is hewing to its commitments to a long-term reduction of its present nuclear activities.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano has told The Associated Press that he didn’t know whether the protocol would make his experts’ attempts to probe the previous alleged weapons work any easier.

Khamenei strongly indicated that would not be the case.

“I will not allow foreigners to interview — which is tantamount to interrogation — the prominent beloved scientists and sons of this nation,” he said in remarks broadcast on state TV.

Amano has said that if his investigation remains stalled he may make an assessment on the issue based on the evidence he now has available. Diplomats say that consists of intelligence from the United States, Israel and other nations, satellite photos and information compiled by agency experts. Iran dismisses the material as fabricated by its enemies.

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