Vienna: Iran's nuclear ambitions will again be in the spotlight when the UN atomic watchdog meets next week to discuss if Iranian scientists have used a military base for illicit nuclear weapons tests.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a damning report last November saying Iranian scientists had possibly carried out weapons tests at the base in Parchin, near Tehran, since 2003.A demand for fast and unconditional access to the base will form the crux of discussions when the IAEA's 35-member board meets behind closed doors at its Vienna headquarters for a week from Monday.
The agency's chief inspector Herman Nackaerts on Wednesday showed satellite images dated May 25 showing two small buildings at Parchin that had been recently razed to the ground, according to Western diplomats.
Iran has persistently denied its nuclear programme is for anything but civilian purposes, but some Western powers suspect Iran is trying to cover up nuclear tests there.
The developments come amid mounting impatience from nations including the United States and Israel over Iran's perceived stalling to allow full inspections and oversight of its nuclear programme.
On Wednesday, the US ambassador to Israel said Washington would not continue fruitless dialogue forever and said military action remained an option, along with other economic and diplomatic tools.
The IAEA has also pointed to evidence around another building where scientists may have carried out conventional explosives tests.
The opening of Parchin to inspectors should form part of a broader agreement between Tehran and the IAEA in which Iran would also address several outstanding questions about its nuclear programme the atomic watchdog raised in its critical November report.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, after a short trip to Tehran, said on May 22 that Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili had made a "decision to reach an agreement". However, no major developments have been announced since.
Next week's IAEA meeting is among its 35-member board of directors, the decision-making body of the group. Several diplomats said they were doubtful an agreement could be reached during the week.
Iran met with officials from the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany for two days in Baghdad last month, but little was achieved except an agreement to arrange another meeting in Moscow on June 18-19.