Iran appears to be backpedaling on its recent willingness to cooperate with international nuclear inspections, rebuffing United Nation’s nuclear inspectors who want to return to the country’s military installation in Parchin, a suspected nuclear weapons component testing site.
Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) on Aug. 25 quoted Gen. Hossein Dehghan as saying that when representatives of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited Parchin previously, they had “accepted that nothing happened in Parchin.”
Iran has repeatedly denied that the facility conducts research on nuclear weapons or that it is anything other than a conventional military base. Parchin is situated in central Iran about 200 miles south of the southern shore of the Caspian Sea.
Iran has promised to cooperate with the IAEA in hopes of reaching a more lasting agreement on its nuclear program, which it insists is peaceful but which the international community suspects hides a weapons development component.
But it has been cautious in its level of cooperation with UN inspectors over concerns that inspectors may share intelligence about the Iranian program with the United States or Israel, which have both threatened military action against Iran to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Dehghan said it would not let IAEA officials interview Iranian nuclear scientists. Tehran has previously charged the UN agency with leaking information to Iran’s enemies who then murdered some of the researchers.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also told IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano during a recent visit to Iran that his country’s long-range missile program would not be up for discussion at ongoing nuclear talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the so-called P-5+1.
Iran signed an interim agreement in November of 2013 with the group–- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United State, plus Germany--under which Tehran agreed to partially freeze its nuclear research in return for sanctions relief.
But serious differences remain between the two sides.
They include disagreement over the amount of uranium Iran can enrich and when the sanctions will be lifted altogether. The P-5+1 is set to resume talks with Iranian negotiators before the UN General Assembly convenes on Sept. 16.
IRNA recently reported that Iran began work on Aug. 23 on a new factory to convert a type of uranium into a material that can’t be used to make weapons, under the terms of the 2013 agreement.
The news agency quoted Ali Akbar Slaehi, the chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, as saying that the plant, in the city of Isfahan, would convert weapons-grade uranium hexafluoride into uranium dioxide, which can be used only in reactors.
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com