NEW YORK - The top UN nuclear official announced new talks with Iran Monday aimed at gaining access to restricted sites, and he expressed concern about satellite images taken last month that showed the Iranians had demolished buildings at one site that inspectors have been especially pressing to visit.
The remarks, by Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, suggested that his announcement less than two weeks ago that Iran had basically agreed to allow access by agency inspectors were premature.
Amano’s remarks also appeared to signal impatience over the pace of Iran’s compliance with his requests. They could reinforce suspicions among Iran’s critics that it has been engaged in a pattern of delaying and possibly seeking to conceal evidence of past nuclear weapons work in advance of any visit by agency inspectors to previously off-limits sites.
“They hit a bump,’’ David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington research group that tracks the Iranian nuclear program, said in a phone interview. “Amano is trying to expedite things to make sure it’s not a stalling measure. The agency needs to expedite this and find out if the Iranians are serious.’’
Amano said the new talks would be held Friday at the agency’s Vienna headquarters. He spoke about Iran at a news conference in Vienna after a meeting of the agency’s 35-member governing board.
Asked about satellite images taken in late May of Iran’s Parchin military site, which the agency showed diplomats last week, Amano confirmed that they had indicated activities that “include the use of water, demolishing of buildings, removing fences, and moving soil.’’
He emphasized that agency inspectors want access as soon as possible to Parchin, about 20 miles south of Tehran, a request Iran has repeatedly refused.
The agency said in a report in November it believes the Iranians may have carried out testing of explosives at Parchin that could be used in triggering mechanisms for nuclear warheads.
Iran has denied that accusation, has insisted that its nuclear program is peaceful, and has described reported efforts to cleanse the Parchin site as absurd propaganda by its Western adversaries and Israel.