The headline below pretty much says it all. Once again the Iranians want to have discussions about the one plant they we actually know about, but refuse to talk about the most recent plant found underground. If you think about it, it’s a great stalling technique if you are just wanting to buy more time until you can get your Nukes weaponized.
Deal buys Iran time to obscure activities at nuclear plant, officials say
After acknowledging the plant’s existence, Iran has nearly a month to admit inspectors. Swifter access would have provided an advantage in information gathering, some officials say.
Reporting from Geneva – Iran’s promise to admit inspectors to a secret nuclear plant, though hailed as a major step this week by U.S. officials and their allies, may come too late to glean key information about its design and history, private experts and foreign government officials said Friday.
Allowing access within two weeks of the announcement would in effect give Tehran nearly a month following its Sept. 21 acknowledgment of the plant’s existence to obscure whatever evidence there may be in the facility, analysts and experts said.
David Albright, a former international weapons inspector and president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, said that it would probably take Iran some time to conceal activities at the facility.
But, “if you have a month, you have the time,” he said.
A European official who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue said the six world powers “did well” to win Iran’s agreement to permit access. But the official acknowledged that swifter access would have provided an advantage.
U.S. officials downplayed the effect of the delay, contending that inspectors still will be able to gather essential information if they are admitted within about two weeks.
But Albright said a faster process would have been better.
“It’s not good that the inspection has taken so long,” he said.
“There is no reason it could not have happened yesterday,” he said. “It should have.”
Iranian officials pledged Thursday during high-level international talks near Geneva that they would allow United Nations nuclear inspectors access to the plant “within the next couple of weeks,” European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana reported after the gathering.
Access to the plant was a top demand of the Obama administration going into the talks.
Inspectors from the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, want to know how far along projects are, and want to find out as much as possible about their design so they can better keep track of any banned activities.
An IAEA spokesman on Friday declined to comment on the issue. But the agency, which uses sophisticated “environmental sampling ” techniques to gather radioactive material and other clues, has stated that inspectors need access to facilities as soon as possible.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA’s director-general, complained bitterly when inspectors were unable to scrutinize a suspected Syrian nuclear plant until eight months after it was destroyed in a September 2007 bombing raid by Israel. “The corpse is gone,” he said then.
Iran has previously gone to great lengths to conceal nuclear activities at several facilities. It has repainted and remodeled structures and even torn them down and buried them.
Charles D. Ferguson, a nonproliferation expert and former State Department official now with the Council on Foreign Relations, recalled that when the so-called Lavizan site on the outskirts of Tehran came under suspicion as an undeclared nuclear site in 2003, Iran delayed allowing inspectors access.
Ultimately, the Iranians razed the building and covered it with topsoil, satellite photos have shown.
In the case of the new plant near the holy city of Qom, Iranian officials contend that they did not violate their treaty agreement because the facility was more than a year from completion and rules did not require them to notify the IAEA at that point.
Western officials contend Iran was required to notify international authorities, under agreements in force.
Still, experts said the delay between disclosure and inspection conceivably could give the Iranians time to conceal or obscure how far along the plant was toward completion as well as the scope and nature of any enrichment activity.
It is still uncertain when the IAEA inspectors will be able to tour the plant. U.S. and European officials said ElBaradei was planning to go to Tehran this weekend to discuss access to the plant and other issues. But IAEA officials said only that he intends to visit the Iranian capital soon.
An Israeli official said it remains uncertain whether inspectors will be permitted to visit the plant. “We don’t know whether they will be let in. There are so many unknowns at this point,” he said.
Israel views Iran’s nuclear activities as a mortal threat, but an official said the government is satisfied with the approach of the United States and its allies and is willing to let developments take their course.
The deal to give IAEA access was part of a three-part agreement worked out by the United States, Germany, Britain, France, China and Russia. Under the agreement, Iran has agreed to discuss a full range of nuclear issues with the group and to convert most of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to medical isotopes, which will make the material unavailable for bomb-making.
Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born analyst based in Israel, described the new deal with the United States and the other major powers as “a major accomplishment.”
He said it would have been unrealistic for anyone in Israel to have expected such an abrupt outcome from the first round of talks. “These are negotiations, and negotiations take time,” he said.