The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency says the Iranian government has agreed to give his inspectors access to what had been an off limits military site where the United States believes the country may be developing a nuclear weapon.
For months, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been denied access by Iran to the Parchin military complex, a site that the United States suspects Tehran may be using to develop nuclear weapons.
Now, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei says Tehran may have changed its mind.
"We will probably expect to do certain activities in the next few weeks, including hopefully a visit to this Parchin site," he said.
Interest in the site is driven in part by satellite images that suggest the testing of high explosives at the facility. But without actually gaining access first hand, experts say such components could just as easily have non-nuclear applications.
So far, Iran has allowed UN nuclear inspectors access only to non-military zones and the IAEA chief did not say what might have led the country to this apparent reversal of course.
"I expect that we will be visiting there in the next few days or weeks," he added.
There has been no comment from Iran. But such a visit would mark the latest twist in the IAEA's long dealings with Iran over its suspected nuclear weapons program. The U.N. agency has not found hard evidence proving the country is working to produce nuclear weapons. But Tehran has acknowledged that it hid critical aspects of its civilian nuclear program for nearly two decades even though it insists all such programs are intended to produce electricity.
The Bush administration believes Iran is working to develop nuclear weapons and pushed for an IAEA decision to refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council. The European Union, meanwhile, puts forward a package of economic incentives in exchange for an Iranian promise to freeze uranium enrichment.