UN inspectors back in Tehran for talks on ‘nuclear weapons experiments’

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UN NUCLEAR inspectors have started a two-day visit to Tehran, seeking to meet Iranian nuclear scientists and visit a key military facility as they try to gauge allegations that Iran is pushing towards making an atomic weapon.

The trip is the second in less than a month by the International Atomic Energy Agency team, reflecting growing concerns over alleged weapons experiments – something Iran has so far both denied and refused to discuss.

Herman Nackaerts, a senior UN nuclear official, said he hoped for progress in the talks, but his careful choice of words suggested little expectation the meeting will be successful.

The trip came as Iran announced air defence war games to practise protecting nuclear and other sensitive sites, the latest in a series of military manoeuvres viewed as a message to the West that Iran is prepared to defend itself against an armed strike and to retaliate.

The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran’s nuclear programme, which they say is geared toward making weapons. Iran insists it is for peaceful purposes only.

Iran’s state radio said yesterday the IAEA inspectors hoped to meet Iranian nuclear scientists and visit the Parchin complex. The report said the IAEA had requested to visit the military base and conventional weapons development facility outside Tehran. The site has also been suspected of housing a secret underground facility used for the nuclear programme.

IAEA inspectors visited the site in 2005, but went to only one of four areas of potential interest within the grounds. They did not report any unusual activities, but the Parchin site was prominently mentioned in the agency’s report last year.

The report asserted that Iran constructed “a large explosives containment vessel” in which to conduct experiments on triggering a nuclear explosion, apparently 11 years ago, adding it had satellite images “consistent with this information”.

“Whatever the reasoning of the agency is, it proves the IAEA is not loyal to its previous commitments,” the Iranian radio said.

The IAEA visit comes after Iran last week announced what it described as key advancements in its nuclear programme, inserting the first domestically-made fuel rod into a research reactor in Tehran and installing a new generation of Iranian-made centrifuges at the country’s main uranium enrichment facility in the central town of Natanz.