Iran defends refusal to let in nuclear expert

2014-10-08 17:22
An anti-aircraft gun position is seen at Iran's nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, Iran in this September 2007 picture. (Hasan Sarbakhshian, AP)

An anti-aircraft gun position is seen at Iran's nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, Iran in this September 2007 picture. (Hasan Sarbakhshian, AP)

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Vienna - Iran has dismissed criticism by the International Atomic Energy Agency of its refusal to let one IAEA expert into the country as part of a team investigating allegations of nuclear weapons research.

Tehran said it had a sovereign right to decide who to let onto its territory. But its failure to issue a visa to an IAEA official, that diplomatic sources said was probably a Western atomic bomb expert, may add to long standing Western suspicions it is stonewalling the UN agency's inquiry.

The IAEA said last month that Iran had not issued a visa for one member of a team that visited Tehran on 31 August to try to advance the investigation into what the UN agency calls the possible military dimensions of the country's nuclear programme.

It was the third time the person, whom it did not identify, had not obtained an entry permit.

It is important, the IAEA added in a 5 September report on Iran's nuclear programme, that "any staff member identified by the agency with the requisite expertise is able to participate in the agency's technical activities".

But, in a statement distributed to IAEA member states this week, Iran said that issuing visas was "our sovereign national right and we will issue it when we deem it appropriate".

The IAEA has for years been trying to investigate allegations that Iran has worked on designing a nuclear bomb.

Iran says its nuclear work is a peaceful, but suspicions in the West that the civil nuclear programme is a front for weapons development have led to punishing economic sanctions, which Tehran hopes will be lifted if ongoing negotiations with world powers succeed in ending the stand-off.

IAEA member states have the right to deny access to individual inspectors proposed by the UN agency, and Iran has for several years blocked staff from some Western nations, including the United States, to check its nuclear sites.

A separate, high-level IAEA team in charge of the Iran inquiry - which at least on some occasions has included officials from France, the United States and Britain - has held several meetings in Tehran since early 2012, including one this week.

Nuclear ambiguities

Western officials say Iran needs to co-operate with the IAEA probe if it wants to reach a diplomatic deal with world powers.

Last month's IAEA report said Iran had failed to answer questions about possibly military dimensions of its nuclear programme by an agreed 25 August deadline, in a possible setback for the broader diplomacy between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia.

Iran rejects the accusations as baseless. But it has promised, since Hassan Rouhani, seen as a pragmatist, became president last year on a platform to end its international isolation, to work with the IAEA to clear up the suspicions.

"We continue to co-operate with the IAEA on some of the ambiguities in order to clarify and resolve them," said the Iranian communique to IAEA member countries, which was dated 19 September but only posted on the IAEA's website this week.

While the powers seek to limit the size of Iran's future nuclear programme - and thereby extend the time it would need for any bid to amass fissile material for a weapon - the IAEA is investigating alleged research and experiments in the past that could be used to make the bomb itself.

Read more on:    iaea  |  iran  |  iran nuclear programme

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