World and Nation

Iran pressed on access for nuclear inspectors

The six world powers that have agreed to resume negotiations with Iran over its disputed nuclear program issued a blunt request Thursday that the Iranians allow international inspectors unfettered access, most notably to Parchin, a large restricted military complex that the inspectors suspect may house a testing chamber for explosives used in atomic weapons triggers.

In a joint statement, the six powers — the five Security Council permanent members of Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States, plus Germany — signaled a unified resolve in their renewed negotiations with Iran, which were suspended in frustration more than a year ago. The six agreed earlier this week to Iran’s request to restart the negotiations.

Their statement also sent a message of impatience with any possible Iranian attempts to prolong or stall negotiations over the nuclear program. Iran says its program is for purely peaceful purposes, while the West suspects it is a cover to develop the ability to make nuclear weapons. The dispute has resulted in unprecedented Western economic sanctions on Iran, has raised global oil prices, and stirred fears of a new military conflict in the Middle East if the negotiations fail.

The tone of the statement also suggested that the historic sympathies Iran has received from Russia and China over its nuclear activities have diminished, as Iran has flaunted its increased ability to enrich uranium despite repeated calls for a suspension.

“We call on Iran to enter, without preconditions, into a sustained process of serious dialogue which will produce concrete results,” read the statemenThe statement noted that agency inspectors who had sought and expected access to what they consider “all relevant sites” in Iran during visits in January and February were denied permission, despite Iran’s professed desire to allay their concerns. “In that context we urge Iran to fulfill its undertaking to grant access to Parchin,” the statement said.

Issued by China on behalf of the six powers, the statement did not mention satellite images of Parchin that according to some news reports suggest efforts by the Iranians to cleanse the site before permitting an inspection. Some experts in satellite reconnaissance have discounted those reports, saying it would be impossible to determine such information from the images.

In a further hint of irritation with Iran, however, the agency’s director general, Yukiya Amano, told reporters that his initial optimism after Iran agreed to permit the inspectors to visit had soured, because of what he called Iran’s “old restrictive approach that seeks to tie our hands.”

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, criticized Obama on Thursday for believing that sanctions would pressure Iran into renouncing its nuclear program. But in a highly unusual bit of praise, The ayatollah commended Obama for asserting that he did not want a war.

Artin Afkhami contributed reporting.