Satellite images indicate buildings are being demolished and soil removed at Parchin, an Iranian military site the U.N. nuclear watchdog wants to visit, its chief said on Monday.
Yukiya Amano’s comments will reinforce Western diplomats’ suspicions that Iran is trying to remove any incriminating evidence from the Parchin facility before possibly granting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access.
Amano, IAEA director general, said he hoped his agency and Iran would soon finalize an agreement enabling U.N. nuclear inspectors to resume a long-stalled investigation into suspected nuclear weapons research in the Islamic Republic.
The two sides will hold a new round of talks in Vienna on June 8, Amano said on the opening day of a week-long meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation governing board.
The agency’s immediate priority in its investigation is to visit Parchin, where it believes Iran may have carried out high explosives tests that could be used in developing nuclear weapons.
Parchin, which Iran says is a conventional military complex, is at the centre of Western allegations that Iran has conducted experiments – possibly a decade ago – that could help it develop nuclear bombs. Iran denies any such ambition.
Last week, a U.S. think-tank published satellite images of Parchin which it said underscored concern that Iran is trying to destroy evidence of possible nuclear weapons-related research.
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) posted the pictures on its website after the IAEA showed diplomats at a closed-door briefing similar images that Western envoys said suggested a clean-up at Parchin.
“The satellite imagery indicates that these activities include the use of water, demolishing of buildings, removing fences and moving soil,” Amano told a news conference.
“These are some of the activities that we have observed through satellite imagery,” he said, expressing concern that they could hamper the agency’s efforts to find out what has been going on at the site, if and when it gains access.
Western diplomats say the buildings that appear to have been razed recently are small side buildings near the main structure that is of interest to the IAEA.