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Iran to allow environmental samples

/ Source: The Associated Press

Iran will allow U.N. nuclear experts to take environmental samples at a military site the United States links to an alleged nuclear weapons program but won’t allow them to inspect military equipment, the foreign ministry spokesman said Sunday.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said last week that Iran had agreed to grant access to the site at Parchin, just southeast of Tehran, and that his inspectors could arrive soon. The IAEA had pressed Tehran for months to be allowed to inspect the military complex, long used to research, develop and produce ammunition, missiles and high explosives.

“The discussion is not about visiting military installations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters Sunday.

“The IAEA had asked to take environmental samples from the complex’s green spaces,” Asefi said, apparently referring to landscaped areas outside the huge complex’s ammunition production workshops.

“To show that nothing other than peaceful nuclear activities are carried out in the Islamic Republic of Iran, we agreed to allow the taking of environmental samples from the green spaces in the complex,” Asefi said.

Iran has repeatedly denied U.S. and other allegations it has a secret nuclear weapons programs, saying it wants nuclear technology only for peaceful energy purposes.

In leaks to media last year, U.S. intelligence officials said that a specially secured site at Parchin may be used in research on making high-explosive components for use in nuclear weapons.

Iran asserts its military is not involved in nuclear activities, and the IAEA has found no firm evidence to the contrary.

Under international pressure, Iran suspended uranium enrichment and all related activities in November to try to escape U.N. Security Council sanctions for which the United States had pressed. The IAEA agreed to police suspension of Iran’s nuclear activities.

Under the agreement reached with France, Germany and Britain, which negotiated on behalf of the European Union, Iran will continue suspension of its enrichment activities during negotiations with the Europeans on economic, political and technological aid from the 25-nation European Union. Details of those talks are to start later this month.

Iran says it will judge within three months whether to continue suspension.