Monday, December 06, 2004

The Globe and Mail: Iran may not allow IAEA to inspect military sites

The Globe and Mail: Iran may not allow IAEA to inspect military sites: "Iran may not allow IAEA to inspect military sites

By HIEDEH FARMANI
Agence France-Presse
Monday, December 6, 2004 - Page A10
TEHRAN -- Iran said yesterday it is not obliged to allow United Nations atomic-energy agency inspectors to visit military sites alleged to be involved in secret nuclear-weapons work, but that it is willing to discuss the issue.

"It is not a matter of unlimited commitments and unlimited inspections," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said when asked whether International Atomic Energy Agency teams will be able to probe two suspect military facilities.

"We will act in accordance with the NPT [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty], our duties and responsibilities," Mr. Asefi added.

The IAEA has a mandate under the NPT to verify that all nuclear material in a country is declared and is not being diverted for nuclear-weapons purposes, as the United States says is the case in Iran.

But under the NPT and even its additional protocol, also signed by Iran, the agency has limited inspection powers.

The Vienna-based watchdog has asked Iran whether it can visit the Parchin military base east of Tehran, where U.S. officials have said the Iranians may be testing "high-explosive shaped charges with an inert core of depleted uranium" as a dry test for how a bomb with fissile material would work.

IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei said in an interview that he has "every reason to expect that Iran will allow" inspectors at the site.

But Mr. Asefi said Iran has not been officially asked by the agency whether it can inspect Parchin, although he did add that "we are ready to co-operate within the framework of our commitments with the IAEA."

The agency is also researching another site in Tehran, Lavizan II, which the exiled Iranian opposition has alleged is a site involved in the secret enriching of uranium.

Iran insists its nuclear program is solely directed at generating electricity, and fiercely denies allegations it is seeking weapons.

The country escaped possible UN sanctions last week after agreeing to a deal with Britain, France and Germany to suspend its controversial fuel-cycle work in exchange for a package of incentives.

"A temporary suspension means a short while, not a long time," Mr. Asefi said of the suspension.

However, he said comments Friday by powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani that the freeze will not last more than six months should not be seen as a firm time frame. Mr. Asefi said Mr. Rafsanjani only mentioned six months as an "example."

An IAEA board of governors resolution on Iran last week failed to give the agency the "unrestricted access" in the Islamic republic that nations like the United States say is needed if the agency is to resolve the Iranian nuclear question.

The IAEA goes beyond NPT accords in what it calls "transparency visits," when it asks Iran as a confidence-building measure to allow it to inspect sites, even if the agency does not have a suspicion of nuclear material at these places, Mr. ElBaradei said."