(photo credit: REUTERS)
VIENNA -- World powers have "worked out a process that we believe will ensure that the IAEA has the access it needs" to all sites related to Iran's nuclear program, a senior Obama administration official told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
The development may amount to progress in negotiations with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program, in which access to Iran’s military sites has been a major sticking point. Comments made by the US official did not clarify whether Tehran has agreed to the mechanism.
The United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany are negotiating with Iran to cap, restrict, monitor and partially roll back its nuclear program for a finite period, in exchange for sanctions relief.
They seek access for the United Nations' nuclear watchdog
, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to any site it deems necessary to visit to ensure that Iran's declarations on its nuclear program are both correct and complete.
“The entry point isn’t, ‘we must be able to get into every military site,’ because the United States of America wouldn’t allow anybody to get into every military site,” the official said. “So that’s not appropriate. There are conventional military purposes; There are military secrets that any country has that they’re not willing to share with other people.”
"But if, in the context of this agreement - the Additional Protocol, PMD [Possible Military Dimensions], the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement - the IAEA believes that it needs access, and has a reason for that access, then we have a process to ensure that that access is given," the official continued. "If that happens to be a military site, then that should be available."
The UN Security Council has determined that Iran has been in violation of international norms by not complying with key tenets of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which it is a signatory, over the past decade.
That is what the talks are about: Seeking a deal that brings Iran back in line with its international obligations in a verifiable manner, which will then allow for Iran’s return to the international community.
But Western powers seem to agree that Iran is still entitled to a minimum level of privacy from international inspectors, who may indeed require “managed access” to Iran’s conventional military sites.
Iran argues that such access is a violation of its very sovereignty, and believes it is an extraordinary standard never applied to any other nation.
Under the Additional Protocol, Tehran may attempt to settle the IAEA’s concerns by providing it material without granting it access. Iran may also grant access, but not allow inspectors to leave the facilities with any documents, photo evidence or trace material.
The working agreement would effectively limit the amount of time Iran is allowed to fight the IAEA over access to a specific site at a specific moment in time during the life of the deal.
But the officials would not specify the amount of time their mechanism would allow for Iran to seek alternative paths to inspection.
The IAEA faces such issues all the time with participating nations, another US official noted on Sunday, as more than 120 countries have signed on to the Additional Protocol since its drafting in 1997.