VIENNA (AP) - New commercial satellite images suggest that Iran has demolished two buildings at a military site where it is suspected of trying to erase evidence of a nuclear arms program, a U.S. nonproliferation think tank said Thursday.
The images were published Thursday by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, which provides consultancy services for U.S. government agencies focused on nonproliferation and is considered an objective source of information on Iran's nuclear program.
A senior diplomat who saw the photos displayed on the think tank's website and who is accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency told The Associated Press they showed apparent cleanup work similar to that depicted on spy satellite photos supplied to the IAEA by member nations closely tracking Iran's nuclear activities.
The IAEA, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, presented some of those spy satellite images on Wednesday to the agency's 35-member nation board, prompting Iran's chief IAEA delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh to dismiss allegations of a cleanup as "baseless."
Iran has consistently rejected accusations that it is attempting to erase traces possibly left by secret nuclear work at the Parchin military installation before granting U.N. inspectors permission to visit the facility. The Iranians contend that radioactive particles, should they exist, could not in fact be cleaned up. That is debatable, but the agency is looking for other evidence at Parchin as well, hoping to find traces left by the kind of high conventional explosives it suspects the Iranians tested there.
At stake is the threat an Iran armed with nuclear weapons could pose to its neighbors. The U.S. and Israel have indicated readiness to attack Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail to curb its nuclear program. Both suspect that Iran is aiming to build nuclear weapons, and Israel believes it would be a prime target.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful but has consistently rebuffed requests by the IAEA for access to Parchin, about 20 miles southeast of the capital, Tehran. Its refusal to grant agency experts access to sites, officials and documents sought by the IAEA has paralyzed a large-scale agency probe of suspected secret work on nuclear weapons for more than four years.