Iran has announced that it is ready to open up its Parchin military facility for inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — a move likely to retard the growing call for military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.
In Vienna, the office of Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's permanent representative to the IAEA, issued a statement on Tuesday that the agency's inspectors could visit Parchin once an agreement was reached on the modalities for inspections.
“Given the fact that Parchin is a military site and finding access to such a site is a time-consuming process and cannot be done repeatedly, and taking into account that the Agency has been asked (by Iran) to integrate all the related issues, including the hydrodynamic tests, permission will be granted for access,” said the statement as quoted by the semi-official Fars News Agency.
In a day of fast-paced developments, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, who are demanding that Iran freeze all uranium enrichment, announced on Tuesday that they have accepted an offer to resume stalled nuclear talks with Tehran.
Denial of access to Parchin had emerged as a major stumbling block in the latest round of talks between the IAEA and the Iranians on clarifying that Tehran was not running a clandestine nuclear weapon programme. The IAEA has been pressing for access to Parchin after reports emerged in 2004 of the presence at the facility of a large containment vessel where the Iranians might have been testing explosives as part of hydrodynamic experiments. The IAEA has warned that hydrodynamic experiments, which involve the use of conventional explosives along with nuclear material or its surrogates are “strong indicators of possible weapon development”.
The pressure on Iran over Parchin mounted after an IAEA team, during the course of a second round of talks last month, was denied permission to visit the facility. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano drew international attention to the Iranian decision when he said: “It is disappointing that Iran did not accept our request to visit Parchin during the first or second meetings”. Heaping blame on Iran, he added that the IAEA had approached the dialogue with Iran “in a constructive spirit, but no agreement was reached”.
Analysts point out that the Iranian decision could help defuse tensions, which have been mounting following Israeli insistence that, in its view, peaceful options to retard Iran's possible quest for nuclear weapon capability were not working. On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give diplomacy a chance, before considering military strikes as an option. But Mr. Netanyahu seemed to rebuff his host's exhortation when, after the meeting at the White House, he said: “We waited for diplomacy to work; we've waited for sanctions to work; none of us can afford to wait much longer.”
Tuesday's announcement was the second conciliatory gesture by Iran towards the Americans. A day earlier, Iran's Supreme Court ordered the retrial of a former American Marine who had been convicted of spying and had been sentenced to death.
If it materialises, the IAEA would be inspecting Parchin for a third time. It had done so twice in 2005, Mr. Soltanieh told Russia Today in a February 27 interview. After these inspections, an IAEA report in 2006 said the agency “did not observe any unusual activities in the buildings visited, and the results of the analysis of environmental samples did not indicate the presence of nuclear material”.
Major powers announce resumption of talks
Reports of hydrodynamic experiments at Parchin