"This clearly shows the intention to develop weapons," said a senior United States official ... Daily Telegraph
By Anton La Guardia, Diplomatic Editor
http://www.iranfocus.com/uploads/img414a858e5151c.jpg" />America seized on satellite pictures of a possible Iranian nuclear weapons testing site yesterday to demand that Teheran be given an ultimatum to come clean or face United Nations sanctions.
"This clearly shows the intention to develop weapons," said a senior United States official after a Washington think-tank released its analysis of images of an isolated explosives testing facility at Parchin, about 20 miles from Teheran.
But Iran dismissed the claim as "another lie" and some US officials privately distanced themselves from the accusation. British officials were also sceptical.
The International Atomic Energy Agency rejected American accusations that it had gone soft on Iran and that it was deliberately keeping quiet about Teheran's alleged refusal to admit nuclear inspectors to Parchin.
An IAEA spokesman said a report issued two weeks ago "is objective and contains all the facts in our possession".
He added that inspectors were "discussing with Iran dual use items and equipment" - implying that the IAEA is interested in visiting Parchin.
Any proof that Iran has built a facility to test parts of a nuclear weapon would amount to "smoking gun" evidence in America's campaign to prove to the world that Teheran is seeking to develop an atomic bomb.
Other Iranian nuclear facilities, such as its uranium enrichment centrifuges, are at most "dual use" - ostensibly designed as part of a civil nuclear programme but potentially military in nature.
In an analysis published on its website on Thursday, the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security said Parchin was "a logical candidate for a nuclear weapons-related site".
It identified a number of sites that could be useful in testing explosives for "implosion-type" nuclear bombs - devices in which explosives are detonated to compress a core of fissile material and start a nuclear chain reaction.
The authors said one building, identified as a high explosive testing "bunker", had parallels with a bunker once designed by Iraq to test a mock-up of a nuclear bomb.
The authors were careful to say the satellite images were "ambiguous", not least because Parchin is well known as a site for research and production of ammunition, missiles, high explosives and perhaps also chemical weapons.
The ISIS also ruled out claims by some experts that the site contained a full-blown underground nuclear testing site.
The claims about Parchin have deepened the mutual suspicion in Vienna, where the IAEA's governing board is debating how to deal with the Iranian nuclear crisis.
One diplomat close to the IAEA said: "Every time there is a board meeting there are breathless allegations of a new nuclear site. It's easy to name names, but the agency needs actionable evidence.
"Remember that in Iraq inspectors were sent on many wild goose chases."
America has demanded that the IAEA issue a clear ultimatum for Iran to halt its uranium enrichment programme and answer all outstanding questions about its nuclear programme by Oct 31.
If not, Washington wants Iran referred to the Security Council for sanctions.
But European countries have tried to tone down its resolution in the hope of winning Third World support.
A compromise being discussed last night suggested only an implicit November deadline with no clear "trigger".
The draft would ask the IAEA to produce an all-encompassing report on Iran's nuclear programme, rather than quarterly updates.
America and Britain hope this will remind the board of a catalogue of Iranian lies and violations over 18 years.