UPDATE 1-Fill brought to Iran site IAEA wants to inspect-diplomats

Fredrik Dahl
Reuters Middle East

* IAEA believes Iran held nuclear-relevant tests at Parchin

* Iran says it is a conventional military facility

* Western diplomats suspect Iran is cleaning up site

VIENNA, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Iran has been hauling dirt to a

military site U.N. nuclear inspectors want to visit, Western

diplomats said on Wednesday, saying the findings were based on

satellite images and they reinforced suspicions of a clean-up.

They said the pictures, presented during a closed-door

briefing for member states of the International Atomic Energy

Agency (IAEA), suggested Iran was continuing to try to hide

incriminating traces of any illicit nuclear-related activity.

The allegations come a few days after the IAEA said in a

report on Iran that "extensive activities" undertaken at the

Parchin site since early this year would seriously undermine its

inquiry, if and when inspectors were allowed access.

Iran has so far denied the agency's request for a visit.

The U.N. agency believes Iran may have conducted explosives

tests that could help develop nuclear weapons at Parchin and

wants immediate access to investigate the facility. Iran denies

this, saying Parchin is a conventional military complex.

The latest satellite image, dated Nov. 7, showed what

appeared to be piles of dirt, according to diplomats who

attended the briefing by chief U.N. inspector Herman Nackaerts.

"They have been scraping the earth. Now they obviously want

to put down new earth. There are piles of them that you can

see," one diplomat said, adding a fence had also come down.

"We are wondering whether they are intending to bring down

... the buildings, we don't know yet," he added, referring to a

structure believed to house a steel chamber for explosives

tests, as well a nearby building.

Iran's mission to the IAEA was not available for comment.

The IAEA report, issued on Friday, listed activities

observed at Parchin since February, including the removal of

"considerable quantities" of earth at the location in question

and its surrounding area, which it said covered 25 hectares (62


This had been followed by "further removal of earth to a

greater depth ... and the depositing of new earth in its place."


Earlier IAEA reports have described the demolition of

several smaller buildings at Parchin and other apparent clean-up

work. The building where the IAEA believes the tests were

carried out has been covered up, it says.

Iran denies Western accusations that it is seeking to

develop the capability to make nuclear bombs.

But U.N. inspectors suspect that research and experiments

relevant to nuclear weapons development have been conducted in

the past, and possibly continues.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano has pressed Iran to allow his

inspectors to go to Parchin, a sprawling facility southeast of

the capital Tehran. The IAEA also wants access to other sites,

as well as to officials and documents.

"There are lots of activities (at Parchin) since the

beginning of this year and some of these activities are quite

important," Amano said during a visit to Paris this week,

referring to the apparent sanitisation efforts.

Tehran says it must first reach a broader agreement with the

IAEA on how the Vienna-based U.N. agency should conduct its

investigation into alleged nuclear bomb research in the Islamic

state before it can possibly be allowed to visit Parchin.

A series of meetings this year between the IAEA and Iran,

the most recent in August, has failed to make progress in

allowing the U.N. agency to resume its long-stalled inquiry.

The two sides will meet again on Dec. 13 but Western

diplomats say they are not optimistic about any breakthrough.

The IAEA's talks with Iran are separate from - but are still

closely linked to - efforts by six world powers to

diplomatically resolve the decade-long nuclear dispute with Iran

that has raised fears of a new war in the Middle East.

In Brussels on Wednesday, the six powers - the United

States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China - said they

were committed to holding a new round of negotiations with Iran

as soon as possible.

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