U.N. nuclear agency ready to go to Iran's Parchin site

Wed Dec 12, 2012 9:18am EST
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By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA (Reuters) - U.N. nuclear inspectors would be ready to go to Iran's disputed Parchin military complex if the Islamic state were to allow it during talks in Tehran later this week, a senior official said on Wednesday.

The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) believes Iran has conducted explosives tests with nuclear applications at Parchin, a sprawling facility southeast of Tehran, and has repeatedly asked for access.

Western diplomats say Iran has carried out extensive work at Parchin over the past year to cleanse it of any evidence of illicit activities, but IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said last week a visit would still be "useful".

Iran rejects accusations of a covert bid to develop the means and technologies needed to build nuclear arms and says Parchin is a conventional military site.

Thursday's talks in Tehran could indicate whether Iran is more willing to address international concerns over its atomic activities after U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election.

The stakes are high: Israel - widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed power - has threatened military action if diplomacy fails to prevent its arch-enemy acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran says it would hit back hard if attacked.

IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts, head of the team travelling to Iran, said the aim was to reach an agreement on outstanding issues "related to possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear program.

"We also hope that Iran will allow us to go to the site of Parchin," Nackaerts told journalists at Vienna airport before departing for Tehran.   Continued...

A section of the Parchin military facility in Iran is pictured in this August 22, 2012 DigitalGlobe handout satellite image. REUTERS/Courtesy DigitalGlobe/Handout