TEHRAN: It is up to Iran's military to decide whether U.N. nuclear inspectors can visit a site they want to see as part of their investigation of Iranian nuclear activities, a senior Iranian official said on Wednesday.
The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said last week that it had requested access to the Parchin military facility during high-level talks in Tehran earlier this month, but that the Iranian side had not granted it.
The IAEA had hoped that Iran would start addressing its mounting concerns about possible military links to the Iranian nuclear program but made no progress in its talks.
Iran rejects Western accusations that it is secretly trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability and says it wants nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes, notably electricity generation and medical uses.
The official IRNA news agency quoted Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, as saying IAEA inspectors could visit the country's nuclear sites "whenever they want."
But "Whether or not IAEA inspectors can visit Parchin will be a decision for the country's military officials," he said, adding that his organization was under no obligation "to show them anywhere they ask to visit in the country."
The IAEA's request to visit Parchin, a military complex southeast of Tehran, followed a report the Vienna-based agency issued in November suggesting Iran had pursued military nuclear technology. This helped precipitate the latest round of U.S. and EU sanctions on Iran.
The report said the IAEA had information that Iran had built a large containment chamber at the Parchin complex to conduct high-explosives tests. There were "strong indicators of possible weapon development," the agency said.
Suspicions about activities at the Parchin complex date back at least to 2004, when a prominent nuclear expert said satellite images showed it might be a site for research and testing relevant to nuclear weapons.
U.N. inspectors visited Parchin in 2005, but did not see the place where the IAEA now believes the explosives chamber was built.
Despite the lack of results from two rounds of talks between the IAEA and Iran this year, Iranian officials say they hope the dialogue will continue. The IAEA says it was disappointed by the latest talks and that no further meetings have been scheduled.
Western diplomats suspect Iran only wants more "talks about talks" to ease outside pressure while it presses ahead with its controversial nuclear work.
Abbasi-Davani, however, said "We have no problem explaining our peaceful nuclear activities to IAEA officials."