UN nuclear watchdog is satisfied with access to Iran's Parchin military site

The U.N. nuclear watchdog said it is satisfied with access Iran will grant it to the Parchin military site, suspected by some states of having in the past hosted Iranian experiments related to atomic bombs.

Without International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmation that Iran is keeping promises enshrined in its landmark July 14 nuclear accord with six world powers, Tehran will not be granted much-needed relief from sanctions.

According to data given to the IAEA by some member countries, Parchin might have housed hydrodynamic tests to assess how specific materials react under high pressure, such as in a nuclear explosion.

According to an unconfirmed Associated Press report citing a draft document, the IAEA would not send its own inspectors into Parchin but would instead get data from Iran on the site.

Asked if Iran would be allowed to conduct inspections itself to address concerns about Parchin, the IAEA said it was legally bound to keep its arrangements with Tehran confidential.

“The separate arrangements of the roadmap are consistent with the IAEA verification practice and they meet the IAEA requirements,” agency spokesman Serge Gas said in a statement.

Under a roadmap accord Iran reached with the IAEA alongside the July 14 political deal, the Islamic Republic is required to give the IAEA enough information about its past nuclear program to allow the Vienna-based watchdog to write a report on the issue by year-end.

Iran has long stonewalled an IAEA investigation into the possible military aspects of its past nuclear activities, relating mostly to the period before 2003, saying the agency’s data for its investigation was fabricated.

Iran says its nuclear program has no military dimensions.

The IAEA, which says it takes no information at face value, has repeatedly asked for fresh access to Parchin.

“The agency has to keep such arrangements confidential to work properly, as it does with all other states,” a Vienna-based diplomat told Reuters on Thursday.

“We have confidence that the agency will carry out its work effectively on this although we understand the discussions on how to best implement the roadmap are still ongoing.”

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy agency, told Tasnim news agency: “Reports in media about the agreement between Iran and IAEA are just speculation.”

He added: “The IAEA has been committed so far to this mutual accord and not released any classified document or information.”

Under the Vienna accord, Iran must put verifiable limits on its uranium enrichment program to ensure it is used only for civilian energy purposes in exchange for a removal of international sanctions crippling its oil-based economy.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said the deal is the “strongest non-proliferation agreement ever negotiated” and that if it was scuttled, Iran’s path toward a nuclear bomb would accelerate and war would likely break out.

Obama is trying to gather 34 votes in the Senate to ensure Congress cannot kill the Iran nuclear deal. Twenty-five senators, all Democrats, have said they will support it. Opposition Republicans are strongly opposed.

Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, who chairs a committee overseeing Washington’s financial contribution to the IAEA, has said he will push to stop such money if the agency does not publish its arrangements with Iran.

“Why haven’t these secret side agreements been provided to Congress and the American people for review? Why should Iran be trusted to carry out its own nuclear inspections at a military site it tried to hide from the world?” said John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vigorously campaigned against the deal, saying it endangers Israel because its terms are too weak to prevent Iran eventually developing a nuclear weapon, and he has lobbied Congress hard to reject it.

“One must welcome this global innovation and outside-the-box thinking,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, tasked by Netanyahu to speak out on the Iranian nuclear issue, said in a sarcastic reference to the report that the IAEA would not directly inspect the Parchin site.

“One can only wonder if the Iranian inspectors will also have to wait 24 days before being able to visit the site and look for incriminating evidence?” he said, referring to a clause in the deal on the notice period for intrusive IAEA inspections.

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This article originally appeared at Reuters. Copyright 2015. Follow Reuters on Twitter.

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