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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran, UN Watchdog Meet Over Disputed Military Site

June 08, 2012

by Selah Hennessy

LONDON - Representatives from the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog met with the Iranian envoy to the agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, in Vienna on Friday to discuss possible access to a military site.

The meeting sets the stage for talks scheduled in Moscow later this month, when Iran will meet with world powers over disputes concerning its controversial nuclear program.

The aim of the International Atomic Energy Agency is to gain greater access to a disputed military site that is key to Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

Satellite images obtained by a U.S. research organization last week suggest Iran may be trying to wipe traces of nuclear weapon testing from the site. The U.N. is aware of the images and wants inspectors to be allowed in.

There have recently been reports of some progress on the access issue.

The IAEA’s chief, Yukiya Amano, visited Iran last month and returned from talks saying a deal would soon be made. But little was achieved during a meeting in Baghdad with Iran and world powers that came the same week.

The United States, a number of European countries, and Israel suspect Iran of working to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies this; it says it’s developing civilian nuclear power.

Anthony Skinner, Middle East expert with the Britain-based risk analyst group Maplecroft, says he doubts that negotiations will produce results. Echoing a view from some Western nations and Israel, he says Iran is stalling.

"I think the Iranians calculate that they can make incremental steps moving forward and back-peddling when it is convenient for them and stalling," Skinner said. "All this is a strategy to ensure that they can move ahead with their nuclear program, buy themselves time. There may be delays now and again but overall the trajectory is one that brings them closer and closer to being armed and having the capabilities that they aim for."

The U.N. watchdog believes explosives tests have taken place at the Parchin military site near Iran’s capital that could be related to the development of nuclear bombs.

Richard Dalton, a former ambassador to Iran and, now an associate fellow at the London-based research group Chatham House, says it's vital that these talks succeed.

To makes its case, Dalton says Iran will need to make transparent what it's done in the past to show the international community that it is not aiming to develop weapons. Dalton doesn’t believe Iran is working to develop nuclear weapons and that the country is entering negotiations in good faith.

"I believe that Iran recognizes that it will not have sensible, productive relations with the outside world unless it can deal seriously with these allegations," Dalton said.

Negotiations have stalled in the past because of suspicions on both sides, he adds, including an undertone of covert action Iran says has been taken by Israel and the U.S.

"Iran is a difficult negotiating partner, but then it regards its negotiating partners as difficult from its point of view and this is a very sensitive matter. Because there has been so much bad blood. There have been so many efforts made to assassinate Iranian scientists, to employ computer viruses organized by the United States and Israel against Iran," says Dalton. "So, Iran has been very cautious about the details of this work agreement."

Iran will meet with six world powers in Moscow on June 18 and 19 to discuss proposed curbs on its nuclear ambitions. Without progress, a European Union oil embargo will be enforced on July 1, joining a host of international sanctions against Tehran.

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