U.N. watchdog: Iran expanding Parchin facility

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran has built an extension to its military facility at Parchin.

A segment of the confidential report seen by the Reuters news agency says that while Iran has largely been complying with agreements on curtailing its nuclear program, its activity at the site since February 2012 has likely undermined the IAEA’s ability to “conduct effective verification.”

“Since [our] previous report [in May], at a particular location at the Parchin site, the agency has continued to observe, through satellite imagery, the presence of vehicles, equipment, and probable construction materials. In addition, a small extension to an existing building appears to have [been] constructed,” the report was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The report covers Iranian activity from before the signing of the long-term nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, in July. The deal lifts sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program.

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Activities at the site since 2012, during a time Iran stonewalled IAEA requests to visit the site or receive information on it, have undermined the agency’s ability to verify intelligence suggesting that Tehran conducted tests relevant to nuclear bomb detonations at the site in the past, diplomats said Thursday.

Specifically, the IAEA believes Tehran may have experimented there with high-explosive detonators for nuclear arms.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied the allegations, saying his country was merely repairing roads near the Parchin site and not hiding evidence from the nuclear facility.

Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that Iran cannot be trusted not to use the terms of the agreement to secretly advance its nuclear program while also benefiting from the lifting of sanctions to divert more funds into doing just that.

But President Barack Obama has defended the deal, saying it is the best way of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear arms. Congress will vote on the deal in September, and Obama has vowed to veto any efforts to stop the deal.

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