UN nuclear chief pays ‘ceremonial’ visit to Parchin site

IAEA head Yukiya Amano given ‘courtesy’ tour of Iranian facility suspected of developing triggers for nuclear weapons

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, talks with U.N. nuclear chief Yukiya Amano, left, during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, talks with U.N. nuclear chief Yukiya Amano, left, during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

VIENNA (AP) — The head of the U.N. nuclear agency paid what Iran’s official news agency described as a ceremonial visit Sunday to an Iranian nuclear site that he suspects may have been used to develop explosive triggers for nuclear weapons.

Neither Iranian reports of Yukiya Amano’s visit to the Parchin site nor its confirmation by the U.N’s International Atomic Energy Agency gave substantial details.

But they appeared to jibe with the terms of a draft agreement between Iran and the IAEA, which Amano heads. Seen by The Associated Press, that confidential draft speaks of a visit by Amano not as a participant in any IAEA probe but as a “courtesy” granted by Iran.

The draft also postulates that Amano would come only after the suspected site at Parchin was probed for evidence of weapons work. His visit Sunday thus could indicate that the inspection had already occurred over the past few days.

Such a probe would normally be done by IAEA personnel. But the draft says that at Parchin, Iranian experts, monitored by video and photo cameras, will collect their own environmental samples. They will then give them to IAEA officials for laboratory analysis.

The Parchin compromise comes less than a month before an Oct. 15 deadline for the IAEA to gather information on allegations that Iran tried to build atomic weapons and after more than a decade of essentially stalemated agency attempts to follow up the allegations.

A final U.N. assessment is due in December, and that will feed into the larger July 14 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, helping to determine whether sanctions on Tehran will be lifted.

Without mentioning the probe or specifying what part of the sprawling 50-square-kilometer (20-square-mile) complex Amano had access to, Iran’s official IRNA news agency said Amano had “a ceremonial visit to Parchin as a guest of the Islamic Republic.”

Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Behrouz Kamalvandi said Amano toured “workshops and nearby construction sites in the complex.”

The draft agreement says that Amano and his deputy would be granted a post-probe visit “as a courtesy by Iran.” The IAEA also said Amano was accompanied by his deputy.

White House and U.S. State Department officials have confirmed the existence of the draft. They say they are satisfied that the arrangements for Parchin will allow the IAEA to do its job but have refused demands from U.S. Congress and others to make it public, saying they are governed by confidentiality rules agreed to by Iran and the agency.

The IAEA also has refused to detail the arrangement, saying only that it meets its stringent inspection requirements.

The draft didn’t say whether IAEA personnel would be present anywhere on the base during the inspections. In a tweet last week, chief Iranian IAEA delegate Reza Najafi said Parchin “is a military site and Iran will not let any inspector go there.”

Iran denies any work on — or interest in — nuclear weapons. It says IAEA suspicions are based on false intelligence from the U.S., Israel and other adversaries.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.

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