Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Iran Rebuffs Charges of Concealment at Military Base
A senior Iranian diplomat has rejected Western assertions that his country appears to be concealing incriminating material at a site suspected by U.N. auditors to have hosted nuclear weapon-relevant experimentation, Iran's Fars News Agency reported on Thursday (see GSN, May 31).
A U.S. think tank on Wednesday pointed to satellite images taken last week as evidence that Iran had apparently demolished two structures at its Parchin armed forces installation since early last month. Tehran has turned down multiple requests by the International Atomic Energy Agency for a trip to Parchin, where the U.N. nuclear watchdog believes the government might have assembled a tank for performing nuclear weapon-usable combustion studies.
The Vienna, Austria-based agency on Wednesday reportedly presented similar pictures taken of the complex from space, and the organization reaffirmed the need for an IAEA trip to the site aimed at resolving related questions.
Iran's envoy to the agency, though, brushed off concerns over possible concealment efforts at the site. Tehran insists its atomic activities are strictly peaceful.
"Third parties should not interfere in Iran and IAEA technical cooperation to resolve the nuclear issue; this kind of noise and allegations are baseless," Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said to journalists.
An IAEA visit to the base would only be possible upon finalization of a wider plan for executing a probe of possible weapon-related aspects of Iranian atomic activities, he said (see GSN, May 22; Fars News Agency, May 31).
Acting and retired government personnel said an Iranian concealment effort would not hamper the U.N. investigation, Bloomberg reported on Friday.
“Uranium contamination inside the building and equipment may be dispersed over a large area” at Parchin, former IAEA official Robert Kelley said. “If Iran washes down all this equipment and allows the water to run across the parking lot into a ditch, then all the uranium will end up concentrated" (Jonathan Tirone, Bloomberg, June 1).
Iran has maintained a resolute, well intended posture in discussions of its nuclear program with six major governments, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the Islamic Republic News Agency on Friday. Iranian diplomats met in Baghdad last week with counterparts from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States; the gathering followed an April session in Istanbul, Turkey.
Salehi urged the other negotiating powers to take a productive stance in future exchanges. The sides are slated to meet later this month in Moscow.
"The talks are on the right path, but the pace of negotiations may only become slow or fast. However, we have a lot of hope in the success of the talks," he said. The official noted the discussions have been difficult (Islamic Republic News Agency, June 1).
A remark by former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, though, has bolstered contentions that his nation is deliberately dragging out the negotiation process as its atomic efforts progress, the London Telegraph reported on Thursday.
"Do you really believe in what you are hearing? Do you think we have achieved anything during these talks?" Rafsanjani reportedly asked his successor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following a description by Iran's top nuclear negotiator of offers obtained from counterparts in the atomic discussions (Damien McElroy, London Telegraph, May 31).
Israel's envoy to Russia on Thursday voiced doubt over the likelihood of the negotiations to achieve steps toward resolving the nuclear standoff, Interfax reported.
"The next meeting will take place in Moscow; we shall see what results it may bring. In our opinion, there will be no progress with regard to the conditions set for Iran," Ambassador Dorit Golender said.
"The Iranian conduct is obvious. Iran has been gaining time at the latest negotiations; the negotiations and the IAEA response have not led to any decisions," the official said (Interfax I, May 31).
An international relations official for one of the Western negotiating powers expressed similar pessimism over the prospects of the discussions, Agence France-Presse reported.
"I increasingly struggle to see a way where this doesn't end in tears," the insider said.
Former U.S. State Department Reza Marashi added: "As both sides escalate for leverage, the reality is that neither side has gained an upper hand."
"Both sides are nearing a critical point at which delaying the inevitable choice between military action and compromise is no longer tenable," Marashi wrote in a Wednesday commentary on the National Interest website (Agence France-Presse I/al-Ahram, June 1).
Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen is set to travel this month to Israel, Russia and the United Kingdom for talks on carrying out punitive economic measures against Iran, his department indicated on Thursday. Cohen is expected during his June 3-8 tour to inform the three governments of ways in which the United States can increase penalties against Tehran (Agence France-Presse II/al-Ahram, May 31).
Most of Israel's top security officials do not support launching an immediate armed offensive against Iran, insiders told Ynetnews.com on Wednesday. Opponents include Israeli intelligence chief Tamir Pardo, armed forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.
"Without Gantz' support the chances of mounting a strike are slim," one insider said. "Israel has to push the international community to impose further sanctions on the Iranian economy. That's what's important right now" (Attila Somfalvi, Ynetnews.com, May 31).
The European Union's economic penalties on Iran are not intended to prompt a collapse of the country's present government, the president of 27-nation bloc told Interfax.
"On Iran we are pursuing a negotiated and peaceful solution to concerns over Iran's nuclear program. Aim of the sanctions is to bring Iran back to the negotiating table, and not to provoke a regime change in Iran," Herman Van Rompuy said in remarks reported on Thursday.
"Keeping, lifting, or softening the sanctions will depend from Iran's behavior, either abiding to its international nuclear obligations or continuing violating them," the EU leader said.
"The international community stands firm, clear and united in seeking a swift diplomatic resolution of the concerns on the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, based on the [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] and the full implementation of U.N. Security Council and IAEA Board of Governors resolutions. We expect Iran to take concrete and practical steps to urgently meet the concerns of the international community, to build confidence and to meet its international obligations," he said (Interfax II, May 31).
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