IAEA ‘Disappointed’ as Iran Blocks Experts From Visiting Military Site

Posted February 21st, 2012 at 8:05 pm (UTC-5)
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The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran has blocked U.N. experts from inspecting an Iranian military site and refused to cooperate with them in answering allegations of Iranian efforts to design a nuclear weapon.

In a statement issued early Wednesday, the IAEA says the U.N. delegation led by chief inspector Herman Nackaerts was returning to Vienna after two days of “disappointing” talks with Iranian officials in Tehran.

The U.N. agency says Iran rejected the team's request to inspect the Parchin complex near Tehran, suspected of housing a secret underground nuclear facility. It says Iran denied a similar request when the IAEA team visited in late January. The IAEA also says it reached no agreement with Iran on a document to clarify unresolved issues including “possible military dimensions” to the Iranian nuclear program.

Iranian envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh told Iran's ISNA news agency that Tehran's talks with the U.N. agency “will continue.” But, it was not clear if and when the senior IAEA officials will visit Iran again.

Earlier, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the purpose of the IAEA team's visit was not inspections but discussions on a “framework” for future dialogue and cooperation.

Ahead of the visit, Nackaerts said his top priority was getting answers from Iran on the allegations of its involvement in nuclear weapon-related work. Israel and Western powers accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian energy program, a charge Tehran denies.

Israel and the United States have not ruled out the use of force to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon. But, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday there is “time and space” for diplomacy and international sanctions to produce a “change in Iranian behavior.”

The deputy head of Iran's armed forces said his nation is ready to take pre-emptive action against its enemies. The semi-official Iranian news agency Fars quotes Mohammad Hejazi as saying his forces “will not wait” for Iran to be attacked first. Iran said Monday it was starting air defense exercises to better protect its nuclear facilities from potential airstrikes.

Iranian spokesman Mehmanparast also said Tehran has set conditions for future oil sales to the European Union, which plans to boycott Iranian crude from July 1 as part of a Western campaign to pressure Iran into stopping sensitive nuclear activities.

Mehmanparast said Iran wants guarantees of payments, agreements on long-term contracts and a ban on unilateral cancelation of those contracts. Tehran already has stopped limited oil sales to Britain and France and has threatened to expand the export stoppage to other EU nations whom it accuses of hostile behavior.