‘Iran bars inspectors from military sites’
VIENNA: Several western diplomats on the board of the UN nuclear watchdog accused Iran of barring UN inspectors from military sites, though Tehran said the agency was getting full access inside the country.
Diplomats who follow the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the IAEA inspectors had been prevented from inspecting around a dozen workshops at three locations.
“They have yet to allow access to the military sites,” one western diplomat said. “This will probably be the topic of one of the inspection visits” by IAEA officials.
“They (Iranian officials) have been obstructing visits to military sites,” said another diplomat, adding that UN inspectors were being escorted by members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
The United States says Iran has two nuclear programmes — a public one it has declared to the UN and a secret one aimed at developing atomic weapons. Tehran rejects this charge, saying its plans are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity.
Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, Pirooz Hosseini, denied that the IAEA was facing access problems.
“This is not correct information from these unnamed diplomats,” Mr Hosseini said, adding that there were “discussions” between Tehran and the UN about site access. “They’re not problems. (The IAEA) will have access to the sites they want to visit. Everything is going in a smooth way.”
IAEA officials declined comment. But a third diplomat close to the IAEA said the agency had the right only to what is called “managed access” to sensitive sites, not the “anytime, anywhere” powers UN weapons inspectors had in Iraq. But a fourth western diplomat said any delays caused by discussion of “managed access” would only deepen suspicions that Iran was hiding something. “Iran’s got to throw open the doors,” the diplomat said. The IAEA began looking closely at Iran after an exiled Iranian opposition group said in August 2002 Tehran was hiding a massive uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and other facilities from the UN Iran later declared these sites to the IAEA.
“There’s a general hardening of opinion” against Iran on the 35-nation IAEA governing board, the second diplomat said. “The pattern of behaviour suggests they’re trying to hide something.”
However, he acknowledged there was no hard evidence that Iran was concealing anything, just suspicions. reuters