U.N. Announces New Talks with Iran


iran-nuclear-techniciansThe top United Nations nuclear official announced new talks with Iran on Monday aimed at gaining access to restricted sites, and he expressed concern about satellite images taken last month that showed the Iranians had demolished buildings at one site that inspectors have been especially pressing to visit.

The remarks, by Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, suggested that his announcement less than two weeks ago that Iran had basically agreed to allow access by agency inspectors may have been premature.

Mr. Amano’s remarks also appeared to signal impatience over the pace of Iran’s compliance with his requests. They could reinforce suspicions among Iran’s critics that it has been engaged in a pattern of delaying and possibly seeking to conceal evidence of past nuclear weapons work in advance of any visit by agency inspectors to previously off-limits sites.

“They hit a bump,” David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington research group that tracks the Iranian nuclear program, said in a telephone interview. “Amano is trying to expedite things to make sure it’s not a stalling measure. The agency needs to expedite this and find out if the Iranians are serious.”

Mr. Amano said the new talks would be held this Friday at the agency’s Vienna headquarters. He spoke about Iran at a news conference in Vienna after a meeting of the agency’s 35-member governing board.

Asked about satellite images taken in late May of Iran’s Parchin military site, which the agency showed diplomats at a briefing last week, Mr. Amano confirmed that they had indicated activities that “include the use of water, demolishing of buildings, removing fences and moving soil.”

He emphasized that agency inspectors want access as soon as possible to Parchin, which is about 20 miles south of Tehran, a request that the Iranians have repeatedly refused.

The agency said in a report last November it believes the Iranians may have carried out testing of explosives at Parchin that could be used in triggering mechanisms for nuclear warheads.

Iran has denied that accusation, has insisted that its nuclear program is peaceful, and has described reported efforts to cleanse the Parchin site as absurd propaganda by its Western adversaries and Israel.

The Iranians have pointed out that evidence of nuclear weapons testing is practically impossible to hide from inspectors, who have sensitive data collecting techniques that can find traces of suspect radioactive particles dating back many years.

Iran has also suggested it wants to see the documents used by the atomic agency as the basis for suspicions about the Parchin site before allowing any inspection.

Hussein Shariatmadari, editor of the Iranian state newspaper Kayhan and an influential adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, challenged the credibility of those documents in a recent column, saying: “This is the ‘proof’ the West always uses against us, but which they are afraid to show us.”

Iran and Mr. Amano have clashed repeatedly since his appointment in 2009 as the head of the atomic agency, the anti-proliferation policing arm of the United Nations. So Mr. Amano’s announcement on May 22 that an agreement was at hand on the agency’s longstanding request for access to sites where Iran may have sought to weaponize enriched uranium was considered at the time to be a breakthrough.

That announcement had come on the eve of talks in Baghdad between Iran and the major powers over the broader issue of Iran’s enrichment of uranium in defiance of Security Council demands for a suspension.

Some nuclear monitor experts speculated at the time that Iran had sought to mollify Mr. Amano as part of an effort to set a positive tone at the Baghdad talks, which concluded without any substantive progress. Those talks are set to resume in Moscow on June 18.

In its own account of Mr. Amano’s announcement on Monday, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s representative to the agency, as saying “a new chapter has begun in the Iran-I.A.E.A. cooperation.”

The official Iranian account said nothing about Mr. Amano’s remarks on the Parchin satellite images, but it quoted Mr. Soltanieh as saying, “certain elements are trying to distort the constructive atmosphere of cooperation between Iran and the agency through political controversy.”

{NY Times/Matzav.com Newscenter}


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