PM to Ashton: Iran using talks to gain time

Netanyahu meets with EU foreign policy chief along with FM, Barak, and newly-minted VP Mofaz ahead of talks.

Mofaz, Barak, Ashton, Netanyahu, Liberman_370 (photo credit: GPO)
Mofaz, Barak, Ashton, Netanyahu, Liberman_370
(photo credit: GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned Wednesday that Iran was using diplomatic talks with the West to gain time to develop its nuclear program.
“Iran is using these talks to play for time,” Netanyahu told European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Ashton paid a one-day trip to Jerusalem to hold a joint meeting with Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and newly appointed Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz.
She spoke with them in advance of P5+1 talks in Baghdad on May 23. Representatives of six countries – the United States, Great Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany – will hold a second round of talks with Iran there in an effort to get Tehran to halt its nuclear program.
Netanyahu told Ashton, “There is no evidence, whatsoever, that the Iranian government has any intention to cease its aggressive pursuit ofnuclear weapons.”
During the meeting, Israeli officials told Ashton that a diplomatic process would be successful if Iran agreed to three conditions: stopping the production of enriched uranium, removing all enriched uranium from Iran and dismantling the underground uranium enrichment facility in Qom.
Her visit came as a US security institute said that commercial satellite imagery showed new activity at an Iranian military site.
The images raised concern that the Islamic Republic may be “washing” a building the UN nuclear agency wants to inspect.
Iran dismissed the report, as it has previously rejected allegations about the Parchin complex, where the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency suspects nuclear weapons-relevant research may have taken place.
“They are joking with our nation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students’ News Agency. It is not possible to “wash” nuclear activities, he added.
Iran has yet to allow the IAEA to visit the facility southeast of Tehran, despite repeated requests.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano reiterated last week that the agency had recently noticed “activities” there. He gave no details but Western diplomats suspect Iran may be cleaning the site before any inspection.
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a Washington-based think tank specializing in nuclear proliferation, said it had acquired commercial satellite imagery from April 9 that backs up the IAEA’s concern.
“The new activity seen in the satellite image occurred outside a building suspected to contain an explosive chamber used to carry out nuclear weapons related experiments,” it said on its website in a report on Tuesday including the satellite image.
Iran’s mission to the IAEA has previously dismissed allegations aired about Parchin as “childish” and “ridiculous.”
The images showed items lined up outside a building and what appeared to be a stream of water, ISIS said.
“The items visible outside the building could be associated with the removal of equipment from the building or with cleansing it,” it said.
“The stream of water that appears to emanate from the building raises concerns that Iran may have been washing inside the building, or perhaps washing the items outside the building,” ISIS said.
Previous satellite images from recent months did not show any similar activity at the building, indicating it is not a regular occurrence, it added.
The IAEA has said that gaining access to Parchin is a priority when it holds a new round of talks with Iran in Vienna next week after two previous meetings in Tehran failed to make any notable progress.
But Western diplomats said they would be surprised if Tehran granted the request. Iran has suggested that a broader agreement on cooperation with the IAEA must be reached before it will consider letting inspectors into the site.
An IAEA report late last year revealed a trove of intelligence pointing to research activities in Iran of use in developing the means and technologies needed to assemble nuclear weapons.
One finding in the report was information that Iran in 2000 had built a large containment chamber at Parchin in which to conduct high-explosives tests that the IAEA said are “strong indicators of possible weapon development.”
A senior US official said on Tuesday that Iran must cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation and provide access to relevant sites, personnel and documents.
“Iran continues to delay and obstruct that process,” Thomas Countryman, US assistant secretary for international security and nonproliferation, told a meeting in Vienna.
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