NEW: Evidence of "activities" at a military base draws notice, IAEA's chief says
NEW: IAEA inspectors weren't equipped to visit a site proposed by Iran, Yukiya Amano says
NEW: The IAEA has "credible evidence" of nuclear weapons research, Amano says
Iran is not cooperating with inspectors trying to verify Iran's peaceful claims, he says
The United States and other countries agreed Tuesday to resume negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
Speaking to reporters during the agency’s board of governors meeting, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano declined to provide details on whether the activities at the Parchin military base involve ongoing testing or efforts to remove evidence.
“But I can tell you that we are aware that there are some activities at Parchin and it makes us believe that going there sooner is better than later,” Amano said.
IAEA inspectors had asked to visit the facility during a February trip to Iran but were rebuffed, the agency and Iran have both said.
IAEA inspectors visited Parchin twice in 2005, but inspectors did not enter the building that housed the test chamber.
Iran offered access to another site late in the February visit, Amano said. But the inspection team in Iran was not equipped to examine Marivan, a site IAEA officials say may have been used to test elements of a nuclear weapon in 2003.
Iran has said its nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes, but Amano said Iran’s failure to cooperate with international inspectors makes it impossible to confirm that that is the case.
In fact, the agency “continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said.
Because Iran is not following an agreement to provide expanded information and broader access to international inspectors, the agency is “unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities,” he said in a statement preceding a news conference.
“The reasons of our concern is that we have information, credible information, overall credible information that indicates that Iran engaged in activities relevant to the development of nuclear explosive devices,” he told reporters.
IAEA inspectors traveled to Iran in January and again in February to discuss the issue, but failed to reach a conclusion, Amano said.
Iran has disputed that it refused inspectors access to the base, saying that officials had only demurred until Iran and the IAEA could reach agreement on details of the visit.
Monday’s statement by Amano is not the first time the agency has questioned the purposes of Iran’s nuclear program.
Most recently, after the February visit by inspectors, the agency issued a report announcing that Iran had stepped up its efforts to produce enriched uranium in violation of international resolutions and calling on it to stop. In that report, the agency expressed “serious concerns” about potential military uses by Iran.
Among other things, Iran has tripled its monthly production of uranium enriched to contain a 20% concentration of radioactive material and taken other steps to ramp up its nuclear program, Amano said Monday.
While Iran has said the higher-level enrichment is meant to produce therapies for cancer patients and other peaceful purposes, international critics have called the efforts a troubling step toward possible militarization. Nuclear weapons require concentrations of about 90%.
Nuclear weapons require concentrations of about 90%.
Amano said the agency would continue discussions with Iran and urged the country to abide by IAEA and United Nations resolutions on its nuclear program.
Iran is under increasing international pressure regarding its nuclear program.
The United Nations, the United States, the European Union and other countries have imposed sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear research, and speculation regarding a possible military strike by Israel on Iranian nuclear facilities has been rampant in recent months.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were scheduled to meet Monday at the White House to discuss Iran’s nuclear program and the possibility of a strike by Israel.
On Sunday, Obama warned that “all elements of American power” remain an option to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
CNN’s Tom Cohen contributed to this report.