UN nuclear watchdog chief Yukiya Amano said on Wednesday the UN agency continued to see activity at Iran's Parchin military site, an apparent reference to suspected efforts by Iran to clean the site of any illicit operations. His comments came amid allegations by Western diplomats that Iran is further increasing its uranium enrichment capacity at its Fordow plant buried deep underground.
Asked whether Iran was continuing to dismantle the facility, which UN inspectors want to visit and now only monitor via satellite imagery, Amano said: "Yes ... We continue to see activities."
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a Vienna-based UN agency tasked with preventing the spread of nuclear arms in the world, is trying to resume a long-stalled probe into suspected atom bomb research in the Islamic Republic.
During a visit to London, Amano also said he hoped a new high-level meeting with Iran about Tehran's disputed atomic program could be held "quite soon".
Amano said the IAEA was committed to dialogue with Iran: "We are willing to meet with them in the very near future ... I hope we can have a meeting quite soon."
A senior IAEA team has held a series of meetings with Iran since January, but the talks have yet to yield concrete results. The last round of discussions took place in August.
Iran denies Western accusations that it is seeking to develop the capability to make nuclear bombs. But its refusal to curb work which can have both civilian and military purposes has drawn increasingly tough Western sanctions.
'Iran increasing uranium enrichment at Fordow'
"Iran continues to build up enrichment capacity," one Western official said. A diplomat accredited to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) added: "We think that they have continued installing centrifuges at Fordow. We think that their pace has continued the same as it was, which was pretty rapid."
If confirmed in the next IAEA report on Iran's atomic activities, expected in mid-November, it would suggest Iran is steadily moving towards completing installment of centrifuges at the Fordow subterranean centrifuge site.
"I would think they are going fast enough that they are near complete," the Vienna-based diplomat said, in comments echoed by another envoy.
There was no immediate comment from Iran or the IAEA, the UN nuclear agency based in the Austrian capital.
Fordow - which Tehran only disclosed the existence of in 2009 after learning that Western spy services had detected it - is of particular concern for the United States and its allies as Iran uses it for its higher-grade enrichment.
Iran says it needs uranium refined to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, compared with the level of up to 5 percent it produces at its main enrichment facility at Natanz, to make fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran.