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Iran denies plans to show nuclear sites to diplomats

MYT 8:10:01 PM

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Tuesday it has no plans to show its nuclear sites to diplomats visiting Tehran for this week's Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit, despite an earlier offer by a deputy foreign minister.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mehdi Akhoundzadeh hinted on Monday that visiting NAM diplomats might be allowed to tour the Parchin military base, which the U.N. nuclear watchdog says may have been used for nuclear-related explosives trials.

A section of the Parchin military facility in Iran is pictured in this August 22, 2012 DigitalGlobe handout satellite image. REUTERS/Courtesy DigitalGlobe/Handout
A section of the Parchin military facility in Iran is pictured in this August 22, 2012 DigitalGlobe handout satellite image. REUTERS/Courtesy DigitalGlobe/Handout

But Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast appeared to pour cold water on the idea. "We have no specific plans for a visit to Iran's nuclear installations by foreign guests participating in the summit of NAM member countries," state news agency IRNA quoted him as saying.

A Western diplomat had dismissed as a "bad publicity stunt" Akhoundzadeh's tentative offer, made after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) again failed to gain access to Parchin for its inspectors at a meeting in Vienna on Friday.

"It is the IAEA that should have been given access to Parchin," the senior diplomat told Reuters in Vienna.

Iran is hosting the NAM summit, which ends on Friday, at a time when the West is trying to isolate the Islamic Republic over suspicions it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran says its atomic programme has only peaceful aims.

The IAEA suspects that Iran has conducted explosives tests in a steel chamber at Parchin relevant for the development of nuclear weapons, possibly a decade ago, and that it may have tried to cleanse the site in recent months.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's representative to the IAEA, said Iran had "pre-conditions" for an agency visit to Parchin.

"One of our principles is that security issues should be completely observed, and any steps taken should be taken with our management," said Soltanieh, speaking on the sidelines of the NAM summit, according to the Mehr news agency.

He did not elaborate, but his choice of words suggested Iran would seek tight control over any IAEA visit to Parchin.

Soltanieh also referred to Iran's demands for access to IAEA documents underpinning the agency's concerns about possible military dimensions to Tehran's atomic activity.

"This has been our most major request, upon which we have insisted and will insist," he was quoted as saying.

Tehran's quest for access to the documents is a sticking point in talks with the IAEA on the agency's stalled probe into suspected atom bomb research in Iran, diplomatic sources say.

The IAEA has received many of the documents from foreign intelligence services on the condition of confidentiality.

Soltanieh also reiterated his country's determination to keep enriching uranium. "We will not suspend enrichment for even one second," the ISNA news Agency quoted him as saying.

Enriched uranium can be used to fuel power stations, or, if processed further, for nuclear weapons.

(Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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