A U.S. envoy accused Iran on Thursday of “systematically demolishing” a facility at the Parchin military site that United Nations nuclear inspectors want to visit as part of their investigation into suspected weapons research.
“Iran has been taking measures that appear consistent with an effort to remove evidence of its past activities at Parchin,” senior U.S. diplomat Robert Wood told the 35-nation governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
He said it was “troubling that Iran is blatantly hampering the (IAEA’s) ability to carry out its mandate by systematically demolishing the facility that has been identified by the IAEA as meriting inspection at the Parchin site.”
The IAEA suspects Iran has conducted explosives tests in a steel chamber at Parchin, possibly a decade ago, and has repeatedly asked Iran to grant it access to the facility.
Iran says Parchin is a conventional military site and has dismissed allegations about it as “ridiculous.”
Citing satellite imagery, Western diplomats have for several months said they suspect Iran is cleaning the site of any evidence of illicit nuclear activity, by tearing down buildings and removing soil.
Wood called on Iran to grant the U.N. immediate access to Parchin. “If Iran has nothing to hide there, why did it begin altering the site as soon as the IAEA asked to visit?” he asked, according to a copy of his statement to the closed-door board session.
In a related story, U.N. nuclear watchdog governors looked set on Thursday to rebuke Iran over its expanded uranium enrichment and failure to address suspicions of atom bomb research after a draft resolution was amended to reflect a last-minute South African proposal.
Pretoria earlier threw the IAEA meeting into confusion by putting forward an amendment which some Western diplomats said might have weakened the language towards Iran somewhat.
But a compromise was hammered out during a three-hour adjournment of the closed-door session, the diplomats said. “I think we will be ok,” one Western envoy told Reuters.
It was unclear whether the Vienna-based governors’ debate on Iran would be concluded in time for a vote to take place later on Thursday or whether it would happen on Friday instead.
Six world powers tabled a resolution text on Wednesday, aiming to raise pressure on Iran, a day after Israel ramped up threats to attack its arch-foe in frustration over the inability of diplomacy and sanctions to rein in the Islamic Republic and ally fears it is covertly seeking nuclear weapons capability.
The resolution censures Iran for defying international demands to suspend uranium enrichment – a conduit to producing fuel for nuclear power stations or bombs – and failing to clarify concerns that it may be after nuclear arms know-how.
Intended to signal big power unity and censure Iran for defying U.N. calls to curb its nuclear activity, the text was supposed to have been approved and voted on by the IAEA Board of Governors on Thursday morning.
But South Africa, like Iran a member of the Non-Aligned Movement of mainly developing nations (NAM), some of whom do not regard Iran as a risk, proposed an amendment later agreed by the United States, Russia, France, China, Britain and Germany.
The amendment concerned a section of the text demanding that Iran immediately implement a yet-to-be agreed framework accord with the IAEA on how the agency should conduct its investigation into suspected nuclear explosives research in the Islamic state.
The compromise changed the original text but not as far as the South African proposal, easing Western fears that it could lower the heat on Tehran to cooperate with IAEA sleuths. It was unclear how Egypt, also in NAM, would vote, diplomats said.
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