TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran warned it would not allow UN nuclear inspectors to “spy” on a suspect military site which the United States claims may be involved in covert nuclear weapons activities.
It also said it planned to resume soon the enrichment of uranium despite a deal hammered out last year with the European Union under which it agreed to freeze the controversial activity.
A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived in Tehran Wednesday to carry out inspections at the Parchin military facility which Iran had long kept off limits to the UN nuclear watchdog.
“We are watchful. We have allowed inspections into our military installations but we will not allow any espionage or the theft of information from our military sites,” Hossein Mousavian, the spokesman for Iran’s nuclear negotiations team, said in remarks carried by the Mehr news agency.
“It is not necessary for the inspectors to enter the installations. They are authorized to take samples outside (the buildings) using their equipment.”
According to student news agency ISNA, the IAEA team is due to stay in Iran for a week and start taking environmental samples from Parchin on Thursday.
Last week, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei announced that Iran had finally given the green light for his inspectors to probe Parchin. The IAEA has been seeking access to the site since July.
Tehran gave permission for inspectors to take so-called environmental samples from the Parchin site southeast of Tehran in order to disprove US allegations of secret weapons-related activities.
“To demonstrate that we have nothing to hide and that the Iranian nuclear program is peaceful, we have authorized the agency to take these samples,” foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Sunday.
Environmental sampling involves taking swabs or soil samples to detect the presence of nuclear activity.
Parchin is an example of a so-called “transparency visit” where the IAEA is going beyond its mandate under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to check if nuclear materials have been diverted away from peaceful use.
The United States has alleged that the Iranians may be working on testing high-explosive charges with an inert core of depleted uranium at Parchin as a sort of dry test for how a bomb with fissile material would work.
Tehran has strongly denied carrying out any nuclear-related work at the site, and insists its nuclear drive is merely aimed at generating electricity.
In addition, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Hasan Rowhani, said that Tehran will soon resume uranium enrichment under the supervision of the UN nuclear watchdog, ISNA reported.
“Suspension of enrichment is for a limited period to win the confidence of the international community and to reach an understanding with Europe for full relations in the political, economic, security and nuclear fields,” he was quoted as saying.
“Iran will not allow other countries to halt its enrichment program, and we will soon resume uranium enrichment under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he said during talks with a visiting Japanese official.
Iran, accused by the United States of seeking to covertly develop nuclear weapons, agreed in November to freeze uranium enrichment activities in exchange for a trade and cooperation agreement with the European Union.
But tension remains notably because Tehran has agreed to maintain the suspension only as long as EU trade talks — which resumed on Wednesday — continue.
Iran insists it only wants to enrich uranium to low levels to produce fuel for atomic power stations.