WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Secretary of State John Kerry Friday fought back against criticism of a hard-won nuclear deal with Iran, insisting UN inspectors will have plenty of time to detect any Iranian bid to cheat.
Under the terms of the deal struck Tuesday in Vienna after almost two years of negotiations, Iran has agreed to give the UN nuclear watchdog access to suspect sites, including military bases, as the world seeks to stop the Islamic republic developing atomic arms.
When the deal is implemented, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will notify Iran of a site they want to visit and Tehran has 14 days to comply.
If it refuses then there is a further 10-day delay to allow a joint commission to examine the case and order Iran to satisfy the IAEA s concerns.
The 24-day period has come under fire from critics of the deal who say it will give Iran time to hide any incriminating evidence that it is covertly seeking nuclear weapons.
“Traces of uranium, traces of any kind, fissile material are traceable and are very, very hard to get rid of,” Kerry insisted on MSNBC, giving the example of how the Iranians have denied access to its military site of Parchin, just outside Tehran
Iran has for years rejected IAEA requests to visit the site and denies ever having worked on developing a nuclear weapon, saying Parchin is a non-nuclear facility.
“Iran has been deathly afraid of the IAEA having access to Parchin years later,” Kerry said.
“If they are afraid of us having entry because we might find something years later, I can assure you our intelligence community is completely comfortable that 24 days is not enough time for them to be able to evade our technical means, our capacity to observe,” Kerry said.
He also stressed that the 24-day timeframe was a maximum period, and Iran which is seeking relief from crippling sanctions, had “every reason to do it faster, because the longer it takes and the more they drag, the more suspicion there will be.”
The top US diplomat, who spent 18 days in Vienna negotiating the final phase of the deal with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, insisted it would give the outside world the most “intrusive inspections regime” ever.
Even though the deal sets a 10-year timeframe for the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, Kerry said UN tracking of Iranian centrifuge production — technology used in making enriched uranium — would last for 20 years, and tracking of its uranium mining would last for 25 years.
“We have unprecedented ability to see what they are doing. And our intelligence community tells us that for them to have a covert path, they would have to have an entire fuel cycle that is covert, and it s impossible to do so with the regime that we ve put together.”
Kerry and the Obama administration has gone on a blitz to sell the Iran deal, with the secretary of state to face a grilling from a skeptical Senate next week.