Iran clean up could thwart UN nuclear investigation


IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts talks with journalists before leaving for to Iran on Feb. 12, 2013.


Dieter Nagl

Diplomats said an investigation of an Iranian military facility might not prove reliable due to a suspected cover-up, according to satellite images obtained by the UN nuclear watchdog agency.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) briefed officials Wednesday at a closed-door meeting in Vienna, where the agency's deputy director general Herman Nackaert reportedly revealed images suggesting Iran had paved over part of the site.

Nackaerts "said that they can find evidence of nuclear material but he also said that it was possible they might not because of the clean-up," one unnamed diplomat from a non-western country told AFP.

The Parchin military base, southeast of the capital Tehran, has long been suspected by the IAEA and western officials of conducting tests related to nuclear weapons development. For more than a year the IAEA has requested access to the facility.

"The more they (Iran) do, the less likelihood there is of picking up something easily," one unnamed Western envoy told Reuters. "(But) I think the chances of wiping out every trace of whatever might have been going on there is very slim."

The IAEA frequently releases reports on Iran, and its latest findings, released last week, stated that in the last three months Iran had "conducted further spreading, leveling and compacting of material over most of the site, a significant proportion of which it has also asphalted."

Iran has repeatedly said its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only, and denies allegations made by the United States and other nations that it is carrying out a covert nuclear weapons developemnt program.    

Iran says it never engaged in nuclear weapons research at Parchin, and therefore the IAEA has no right to inspect the military base.