UN atomic team in Iran for talks, inspections refused
AFP, Thursday 13 Dec 2012
An IAEA technical team is in Iran for closed-door sessions with Iranian officials; Parchin site off-limits, says Tehran

While UN atomic watchdog experts arrived in Iran Thursday to renew efforts to engage Tehran over its disputed nuclear programme, media reports said an inspection visit to suspect sites was off the agenda.

The seven-strong International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team is scheduled to hold closed-door sessions with Iranian officials during its one-day stop in the capital, the Iranian ISNA news agency reported.

The IAEA says it is seeking to reach agreement with Iran on a "structured approach" to resolve outstanding concerns and to obtain its inspectors broader access to Iran's nuclear sites and people working in the programme.

The watchdog also wants to inspect Parchin, a restricted military complex near Tehran where the IAEA suspects experiments with explosives capable of triggering a nuclear weapon could have been carried out.

"We also hope that Iran will allow us to go the site of Parchin, and if Iran would grant us access we would welcome that chance and we are ready to go," team leader chief inspector Herman Nackaerts told reporters at Vienna airport Wednesday before leaving for the Islamic republic.

But ISNA said, without giving a source, that "for now no inspection or visit" for the IAEA team of Iran's nuclear infrastructure or "other sites" was on the agenda. It did not elaborate.

The talks Thursday are the latest in a string of fruitless meetings this year between Iran and the IAEA, the latest in August in the Austrian capital.

One Vienna diplomat said that the IAEA team in Tehran is larger than in past visits in February and in May, and now included two "technical experts" who could conduct verification work at Parchin — if invited to do so.

Iran denies seeking or ever having sought to manufacture an atomic bomb and has refused the IAEA access to Parchin, saying that as a non-nuclear site the agency has no right to conduct inspections there.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday the visit would focus on discussions regarding "Iran's nuclear rights as well as its peaceful nuclear activities."

But "certain issues that have possibly become a source of concern for (IAEA) officials can also be discussed," he said, without being specific.

Subject to international sanctions, Iran rejects as baseless suspicions by Western governments, echoed by the IAEA, that it intends to develop nuclear weapons capability under the guise of its energy programme.

Tehran says that IAEA's demands to examine Parchin exceed Iran's obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which it is a signatory.