Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms, operating under a secret agreement with the UN agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press (AP) and exposed on Wednesday.
The agreement, for an investigation of the Parchin nuclear site by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is linked to persistent allegations that Iran has worked on atomic weapons. That investigation is part of the overarching nuclear-limits deal, the news agency said.
The agreement was worked out between the IAEA and Iran. The United States and the five other world powers with whom Iran negotiated were not party to it but were briefed by the IAEA and endorsed it as part of the larger package, according to AP.
The agreement diverges from normal procedures by allowing Tehran to employ its own experts and equipment in the search for evidence of activities it has consistently denied — trying to develop nuclear weapons.
The White House has repeatedly denied claims of a secret side deal favorable to Tehran. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano told Republican senators last week that he was obligated to keep the document confidential, and Iran has declared that the Senate must not be allowed to review the agreement due to its secret nature.
Iran has refused access to Parchin for years and has denied any interest in — or work on — nuclear weapons. The IAEA suspects that the Islamic Republic may have experimented with high-explosive detonators for nuclear arms at Parchin, and recent evidence showed clean-up work at the site.
The document seen by AP is a draft that one official familiar with its contents said doesn't differ substantially from the final version. He demanded anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue in public.
The document is labeled "separate arrangement II," indicating there is another confidential agreement between Iran and the IAEA governing the agency's probe of the nuclear weapons allegations, according to AP.
Iran is to provide agency experts with photos and videos of locations the IAEA says are linked to the alleged weapons work, "taking into account military concerns."
That wording suggests that — beyond being barred from physically visiting the site — the agency won't get photo or video information from areas Iran says are off-limits because they have military significance.
While the document says the IAEA "will ensure the technical authenticity" of Iran's inspection, it does not say how.
The draft is unsigned but the proposed signatory for Iran is listed as Ali Hoseini Tash, deputy secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for Strategic Affairs, reflecting the significance Tehran attaches to the agreement, according to AP.
Iranian diplomats in Vienna were unavailable for comment, Wednesday while IAEA spokesman Serge Gas said the agency had no immediate comment.
News of the document comes two days after a senior Iranian official placed another roadblock in the IAEA’s attempts to inspect his country’s nuclear sites.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi declared on Monday that international nuclear inspectors would only be permitted into the country once they receive approval from the Islamic Republic’s Intelligence Ministry.
Araqchi, who also served as one of Iran’s top negotiators in talks that led to the recently inked nuclear deal, was quoted as having told the country’s state-controlled press that Iran’s intelligence apparatus must approve of any inspector who is issued a visa to enter Iran.