updated 11/2/2005 6:16:30 AM ET 2005-11-02T11:16:30

Iran has granted U.N. nuclear inspectors new access to a high-security military site as part of efforts to avoid referral to the Security Council, diplomats said Wednesday.

The diplomats said experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency were allowed to revisit Parchin as they try to establish whether Tehran has a secret nuclear weapons program.

Parchin has been linked by the United States and other nations to alleged experiments linked to nuclear arms. The IAEA had for months been trying to follow up on a visit in January for further checks of buildings and areas within the sprawling military complex as it looks for traces of radioactivity.

That visit — which was closely controlled by authorities — revealed no such traces.

But one of the diplomats — who like the others speaking to The Associated Press requested anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media about the sensitive investigation — said that over the past few days IAEA inspectors “gained access to buildings” previously out of bounds to them.

The diplomat, who is close to the agency, said environmental swipes were taken from objects in the buildings and would be analyzed at IAEA laboratories.

If those swipes reveal minute amounts of radioactivity, they would strengthen suspicions of nuclear-related work at Parchin.

Because Parchin is run by the country’s armed forces, such a discovery would weaken Iranian arguments that its nuclear programs are strictly nonmilitary. That, in turn, would strengthen sentiment that Tehran be referred to the U.N. Security Council for breaching the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as early as Nov. 24, when the IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors has scheduled its next meeting. The swipe results are expected before then.

In leaks to media last year, U.S. intelligence officials said that a specially secured site on the Parchin complex, about 20 miles southeast of Tehran, may be used in research on nuclear arms, specifically in making high-explosive components for use in such weapons.

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