x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

IAEA chief presses Iran for immediate access to nuclear test site

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog pressed Iran to grant his inspectors immediate access to the Parchin military site, where they believe Tehran may have conducted explosives tests relevant to the development of nuclear weapons.

VIENNA // The head of the UN nuclear watchdog pressed Iran yesterday to grant his inspectors immediate access to the Parchin military site, where they believe Tehran may have conducted explosives tests relevant to the development of nuclear weapons.

Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also said it was "frustrating" that the IAEA and Iran had made no concrete progress in talks that began in January aimed at allaying concern about suspected atom bomb research.

Western powers may seize on his statement to a closed-door session of the IAEA's 35-nation governing board to strengthen their case for further international pressure on Tehran, one of the world's largest oil producers.

Mr Amano made his comments one day after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel and the US were in discussions on setting a "red line" for Iran's nuclear work, which Tehran says is entirely peaceful.

"Without Iran's full engagement, we will not be able to start the process to resolve all outstanding issues, including those concerning possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme," Mr Amano said in his speech.

Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told reporters that Tehran would "continue" to cooperate with the UN agency but that its national security must be taken into consideration.

He said discussions were under way this week about the possibility of having another meeting with the IAEA. The U.N. agency was not immediately available for comment.

At the week-long IAEA board meeting, the United States and its Western allies want to isolate Iran further by adopting a resolution rebuking it for stonewalling the IAEA's investigation into its nuclear activities.

Iran told the agency in a letter last month that the allegation of nuclear-linked work at Parchin, located south-east of the capital Tehran, was "baseless", Mr Amano said.

"However, the activities observed further strengthen our assessment that it is necessary to have access to the location at Parchin without further delay to obtain the required clarifications," he said.