Iran rejects UN request for inspection
* United States says decision has multiplied its concerns
VIENNA: Iran rejected a request by UN nuclear inspectors to return to its Parchin military base, where Washington suspects Iran might have conducted tests linked to nuclear bomb-making, the UN atomic watchdog said on Tuesday.
Several months after their initial requests, Iran permitted UN inspectors to visit Parchin in January. During this visit, inspectors told Iranian officials they would like to visit an area not covered in that inspection, the agency said.
Deputy chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Pierre Goldschmidt, quoted Iran’s response in a speech to the IAEA board as saying: “The expectation of the (IAEA) in visiting specified ... points in Parchin Complex are fulfilled and thus there is no justification for an additional visit.”
The United States is not surprised that Iran has refused to let UN nuclear inspectors back in the Parchin military facility, where Washington charges Tehran is simulating testing of atomic weapons, a State Department official said on Tuesday.
“This adds to our concern that Iran is trying to hide something,” the official said.
The official added: “Iran has consistently, I think, resisted disclosing its nuclear activity.”
UN inspectors believe Iran would need at least a year to make enough bomb-grade uranium for a single weapon and another year to turn it into a bomb, if it wanted a nuclear arsenal, Western diplomats said on Tuesday.
Washington says Iran’s nuclear programme is a front to develop arms. Iran denies this, saying its atomic ambitions have always been limited to the peaceful generation of electricity.
Diplomats familiar with confidential IAEA estimates of Iran’s nuclear capabilities — which the agency has never published — said UN experts believe Iran could be as little as two years away from a bomb if that is what it wants. .
Speaking purely hypothetically, a diplomat familiar with the IAEA’s probe told Reuters on condition of anonymity: “Iran could have a significant quantity of uranium in a year at the earliest, if it could get a cascade of centrifuges spinning.”
It would then take at least another year to put that “significant quantity” of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) — the amount needed for one weapon — into a bomb, he said. Iran already has the know-how to make uranium metal for a bomb core and missiles capable of delivering it, he added.
Israel believes Iran would not be in a position to build a weapon until 2007.
If it wanted a bomb, diplomats close to the IAEA say Iran would need to improve its work with centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium gas by spinning at supersonic speeds. agencies