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Analysts: Iran Halts Alterations at Suspect Military Base

By Diane Barnes

Global Security Newswire

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano, shown in June, has said that significant alterations at Iran's Parchin military base have undermined the ability of investigators to look for evidence of past nuclear weapon-related activities at the site (Alexander Klein/AFP/Getty Images). International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano, shown in June, has said that significant alterations at Iran's Parchin military base have undermined the ability of investigators to look for evidence of past nuclear weapon-related activities at the site (Alexander Klein/AFP/Getty Images).

Iran stopped construction at a military base that some experts allege once hosted nuclear weapon-related experiments, a Washington think tank says.

A Nov. 27 satellite image of the Parchin facility suggests that Iran made "no significant alterations" at the location for more than three months, the Institute for Science and International Security said in its Tuesday analysis. That follows a period of more than a year in which the Middle Eastern nation pursued demolition, construction and paving activities that organization experts believe were aimed at concealing evidence of past on-site experiments relevant to nuclear-arms development.

Iran, which insists that its atomic efforts have no military dimension, began modifying the Parchin site a month after the International Atomic Energy Agency started pushing to visit the base in January 2012, according to ISIS analysts David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini. The U.N. nuclear watchdog's interest in the site is part of a broader probe launched amid international skepticism about Tehran's ostensibly peaceful atomic ambitions.

The apparent halt in modifications at Parchin "may mean that Iran has finished making planned changes at the site," the experts wrote. They added, though, that the pause could alternatively "represent an effort by Iran to freeze operations there."

U.N. inspectors remain barred from the Iranian facility under a deal struck last month by Tehran and the Vienna-based U.N. organization. In an August safeguards report, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said Iran's "extensive activities [at Parchin] have seriously undermined the agency’s ability to conduct effective verification."

IAEA officials suspect that the base hosted a structure capable of facilitating nuclear-related explosives tests, as well as possible development of a "neutron initiator" for activating atomic detonations.

Certain specialists, though, have questioned the U.N. agency's rationale for pressing to visit the Parchin compound. The evidence behind those requests -- intelligence gathered and furnished to the agency by IAEA member governments -- remains confidential.

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