IRAN TO ACCEPT INTERNATIONAL INSPECTIONS EVEN ON MILITARY SITES
THERAN-VIENNA 16 Oct. (IPS) The United Nations nuclear watchdog and the Islamic Republic of Iran are heading for a new showdown as some countries in the International Atomic energy Agency are now pressing to add Irans military sites to the nuclear ones, something which Tehran has sternly ruled out.
Iran is prepared to open more military sites to U.N. nuclear inspectors to prevent questions over alleged weapons programs from reaching the Security Council, a top Iranian official said Thursday.
"Iran's case should not go before the Security Council", said Mr. Mohsen Mirdamadi, the reformist Chairman of the Majles (parliament) National Security and Foreign Policy Committee. "If allowing inspections of military sites resolves this problem, then we should do it."
Mohamed el-Baradei, the Director of the Vienna-based IAEA who was in Tehran said on Thursday that he had assurances from Hojjatoleslam Hasan Rowhani, the influential secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, that Iran will "verify all aspects of its nuclear activities.
He had arrived in Tehran on eartly Wednesday to persuade the Iranian ruling ayatollahs to sign the Additional Protocols to the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), stop all its ongoing uranium enriching programs and prove it is not producing atomic weapons, as suspected by the United States, Europe and Israel.
IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the purpose of the visit was for Iran to "provide the IAEA ... with all the remaining information required to clarify important questions that are still outstanding about Iran's nuclear programs."
"In terms of inspections, so far, we have been allowed to visit those sites to which we have requested access", el-Baradei said in e-mailed comments to the British news agency Reuters on Monday.
But he added that "no later than October 31 Iran must provide full and complete information on their nuclear program. This task is certainly doable in this timeframe and really shouldn't take more than a week or two."
Iran has nervously repeated that it is not building up any atomic arsenal and protested to the conditions set by a 12 September Resolution, including the deadline, but has offered limited cooperation stating it would allow the IAEAs nuclear inspectors and technician access to some, but not all of its atomic sites and centres.
Failure to satisfy the terms of the Resolution that was worked out by Australia, Canada and Japan, could result in sending Iran's case to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions.
The IAEA board of governors will meet on 20 November to assess the Iranians' compliance.
Pierre Goldschmidt, a Belgian deputy to the IAEAs boss and another top agency official held two days of talks in Tehran earlier this month and an IAEA inspection team is already in Iran to carry out routine inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities.
A senior Iranian official said earlier this month that the IAEA representatives had reached "total agreement" with Iran on measures to prove the country's nuclear program is peaceful.
But on Wednesday, a diplomatic source close to the IAEA said el-Bradei would also press the Iranian authorities for access to some military bases and installations as part of IAEAs efforts to determine if Iran has secret atomic programs.
One country in particular said to the IAEA that the inspections could not verify anything if some of Irans military sites are not also visited and inspected, Reuters quoted un-identified diplomat in Vienna, speculating that the country might be the US.
The Agency has given Iran a short list of a few sites it wanted to inspect ahead of the 31 October deadline and it seems that Tehran has accepted, Reuters said "Iran definitely does not want international bodies visiting military sites," Mirdamadi told the American news agency Associated Press, adding however that Iran does want Security Council action ... We can't allow that to happen".
El-Baradei suggested there could be expanded reviews of both military and civilian facilities. He said Iran has already opened one military site. Officials close to the agency, speaking on condition of anonymity, identified the site as Kolahdouz near the Iranian capital.
"If it's civilian or military sites doesn't matter much," he said. "We visit sites that are relevant to our work. If it's important to us to visit a site, we will do so," he said after arriving in Iran earlier Thursday.
An Iranian opposition group with a proven track record said Monday Iran was hiding another atomic facility.
"We have information about another secret nuclear facility in Iran", an official from the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exiled opposition group, told Reuters in Vienna. He said the facility has been hidden from IAEA inspectors.
In August 2002, the NCRI broke the news of two undeclared nuclear sites in Iran -- a massive uranium-enrichment complex at Natanz and a heavy-water production facility at Arak.
Tehran later declared these facilities to the IAEA, which has since placed surveillance cameras at Natanz.
In an e-mailed statement, the NCRI also said it would provide information on Iran's use of foreign technology in its atomic program and details about the Kalaye Electric Co., where U.N. inspectors found traces of weapons-grade uranium.
The IAEA declined comment on the latest NCRI allegation but said it would closely study any information the exiles released.
Iran has agreed to provide the IAEA with a list of imported equipment it contends had been contaminated.
Tehran denies it secretly enriched uranium and blamed the traces found on contaminated machinery purchased abroad in the 1980s, an explanation that has met with widespread scepticism.
The NCRI is the political wing of the Mojahedeen Khalaq Organisation (MKO) which was active as part of Iraqs former dictator Saddam Hoseyns military intelligence machine. Both the NCRI and the MKO are on the United States and European Unions lists of terrorist organisations.
Meanwhile, Russia informed Iran on Monday that it would push back by one year the launch of the nuclear-powered reactor it is constructing in the Persian Gulf port of Booshehr, but at the same time denied suggestions the delay was forced by pressure from the United States or Israel.
"Right now our specialists are drawing up a detailed plan for the plant and the start-up is set for 2005" as opposed to 2004, Nikolai Shingaryev, a senior spokesman for the Atomic Energy Ministry, told the French news agency AFP by telephone.
"The reasons are purely technical, not political", he said. "There is a huge amount of equipment that is needed. Equipment (that we thought) would work is not going to work", he said.
The delay meant that Iran was unlikely to receive electricity from the Booshehr plant before 2006 at the earliest, the official added.
There was some confusion among officials as to what caused the snag, as an unnamed source at the Atomic Energy M told ITAR-TASS that the Iranians caused the delay because they failed to purchase equipment for the plant "from third parties".
Moscow officials have earlier claimed that negotiations over the Booshehr plant have broken down over Iran's demand for Russia to buy back the spent fuel.
The request is highly unusual since spent fuel in such deals is almost always sent back for free, and the Iranian request was not part of the original Booshehr contract.
The Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry also said Russia was not dropping the Booshehr deal outright because Tehran has not yet been recognized to be in breach of international agreements on nuclear weapons.
"We are continuing to cooperate with Iran because there have not been any instructions to the contrary from the IAEA", the Ministrys spokesman Alexander Yakovenko told reporters".
Moscow also says it will not begin delivering nuclear fuel needed to operate the plant until Tehran signs a deal pledging to return the spent material to Russia.
That fuel could be used to develop low-grade nuclear weapons once reprocessed, a weapon commonly known as a "dirty bomb."
Iran has balked at signing the agreement, and a Russian atomic energy ministry official told ITAR-TASS that Moscow was now prepared to sell the fuel -- which has already been prepared and is being stored in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk -- "to another nation or within Russia."
Some observers say that Moscow is deliberately dragging its feet to pressure Iran to come clean with UN inspectors over its nuclear program. ENDS IAEA IRAN 161003