BEIRUT

Middle East

U.S. think tank sees more Iran site sanitation

Debris from the two razed buildings was visible in one of the images published by ISIS.

VIENNA: A U.S. security institute published new satellite imagery Wednesday which it said appeared to show further activity to clean up an Iranian military site which the U.N. nuclear watchdog wants to inspect, including removing earth.

Parchin, which Iran says is a conventional military complex, is at the center of Western allegations that Iran has conducted experiments – possibly a decade ago – that could help develop atom bombs. Iran denies such claims.

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) published the latest satellite picture a day after Iran and six world powers failed to make any progress on their decade-old nuclear dispute during two days of talks in Moscow.

Iran has so far refused to grant the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to the Parchin facility as part of the U.N. agency’s long-stalled investigation into suspected nuclear bomb research in the Islamic Republic.

Western diplomats say they believe Iran may be trying to clean the sprawling site of any incriminating evidence before possibly allowing IAEA inspectors to go there.

Iran has dismissed the allegations, but IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano earlier this month said satellite images indicated that buildings were being demolished and soil removed at Parchin, about 30 kilometers southeast of Tehran.

“I think there is real concern for what the Iranians are doing at Parchin,” one Western envoy said Wednesday.

ISIS last month published imagery which it said increased concerns that Iran was trying to “destroy evidence” of suspected research relevant for developing a nuclear weapons capability, including razing two small buildings.

ISIS posted a picture Wednesday from June 7 on its website which “shows what appears to be further sanitization activity” in the Parchin complex where Iran is suspected to have conducted high explosive tests.

“The image shows heavy machinery tracks and earth displacement throughout the site,” ISIS, which monitors Iran’s nuclear program closely, said.

Debris from one of two razed buildings visible in a May 25 image “has now been consolidated into piles,” it said.

“There is evidence of earth moving machinery and excavation activity near the second demolished building north of the building suspected to contain the high explosive testing chamber.”

Iran has dismissed allegations aired about Parchin as “childish” and “ridiculous” and earlier this month accused the IAEA of behaving like a Western-manipulated spy agency.

An IAEA report last November said Iran had built a large containment vessel in 2000 at Parchin in which to conduct explosives tests that the U.N. agency said were “strong indicators of possible weapon development.”

It said a building was constructed around a large cylindrical object, a vessel designed to contain the detonation of up to 70 kilograms of high explosives. Diplomatic sources say the suspected tests likely took place about a decade ago.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 21, 2012, on page 9.

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