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What is likely the final diplomatic push prior to military intervention against Iran is off to a tense start. Yesterday, a five-hour kick-off to renewed negotiations took place between senior U.N. nuclear watchdogs and Iranians at the diplomatic mission in Vienna. There, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials reported that they believe a site at the Islamic Republic’s Parchin military complex was used to test components of nuclear weapons capability, directly undercutting Tehran’s oft-stated claim that the country is developing such capability strictly for “peaceful” purposes.
The Parchin complex came into focus when the Associated Press (AP) publicized a drawing from a country keeping track of Iran’s nuclear program. It depicted a containment chamber that is used to test multipoint explosives of the type used to set off a nuclear charge. The official who shared the computer-generated drawing with AP says it is based on information from an informant inside the Parchin complex, and that going into further detail would endanger the informant’s life. The official also demanded that he and his country remain anonymous in exchange for sharing secret intelligence information.
Olli Heinonen, the former senior official in charge of the Iran file prior to his departure from the IAEA last year, says the drawing is “very similar” to a photo he has seen and identifies as that of the Iranian chamber. He further noted that even the colors of the two images match. His contention was buttressed by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack, who said intelligence agencies are familiar with the drawing as well.
This follows two earlier references to the structure. The first was a November 8 report by the IAEA describing “a large explosives containment vessel” for experiments on triggering a nuclear explosion, one for which they had satellite images “consistent with this information.” The second was from IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, who said his agency had “credible information that indicates that Iran engaged in activities relevant to the development of nuclear explosive devices” at the site.
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