It's been 10 years since International Atomic Energy Agency reps have visited Iran's Parchin military site, but they were there yesterday to inspect a building and take environmental samples as part of their quest to keep a sharp eye on the country's nuclear machinations, Reuters reports. Yukiya Amano, the director general of the watchdog group, and the head of the IAEA's Department of Safeguards were on site to check out the unidentified building, which Amano says was devoid of equipment and showed "indications of recent renovation work," per the news agency. Environmental samples were also taken and sent to Vienna for analysis, which the IAEA notes counts as "significant progress" in monitoring a site whose only oversight by the IAEA has been via satellite over the past decade. The group is due to offer a report on "possible military dimensions" of the site, long suspected of carrying out tests related to nuclear weapon detonations, by year's end.
The environmental samples, however, are already controversial thanks to the IAEA's confidential deal with Iran that lets the country hold sway over those inspections, the news agency notes. Amano acknowledged that "the Iranian side played a part in the sample-taking process by swiping samples," though he told reporters at a Vienna news conference today the samples' "authenticity" was ensured via an "established verification process." Amano also said IAEA monitored the sample-gathering, though a statement given by an Iranian atomic energy agency rep to the IRNA state news agency said the samples were taken "without IAEA inspectors being present." At today's news conference, IAEA's deputy director general explained that away, noting there was "invasive monitoring" via video and still cameras, as well as GPS tracking and review by "unspecified peers," as Fox News puts it. (Read more Iran stories.)