VIENNA -- The head of the United Nations nuclear agency expressed growing concern yesterday about investigating a site in Iran suspected of links to nuclear weapons development, saying there are indications of new activity there.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano did not specify whether he believed the activity was linked to suspected new weapons experiments or attempts to clean up previous alleged work.

But he said suspicions of "activities . . . ongoing at the Parchin site" means "going there sooner is better than later" for IAEA inspectors seeking to probe suspicions Iran has been -- or is -- working secretly to develop nuclear arms.

Inspecting Parchin was a key request by IAEA teams that visited Tehran in January and February. Iran rebuffed those overtures, as well as attempts by the IAEA to question officials and secure other information linked to the allegations of secret weapons work.

Herman Nackaerts, a senior Amano deputy, told IAEA board members of such suspicions last week, referring to satellite images as his source, but the fact yesterday's comments came from the head of the agency added extra weight to the concerns.

Iran denies any intention of possessing nuclear weapons and says all of its atomic activities are peaceful, but the UN agency says it has intelligence-based suspicions that may not be the case, based on thousands of pages of documentation. Parchin is a key element. The IAEA says it may have been used to experiment with precision detonations normally used to set off a nuclear charge.

"We have our credible information that indicates that Iran engaged in activities relevant to the development of nuclear explosive devices," Amano told reporters outside a 35-nation IAEA board meeting in Vienna, describing his sources as "old information and new information."

The conference opened as fears grow that Israel's air force may soon strike Iran in an attempt to destroy its nuclear facilities.

The United States and Western allies went into the IAEA meeting hoping to persuade Russia and China to back a resolution critical of Iran's refusal to heed IAEA and UN Security Council demands that it banish such concerns by opting for full nuclear transparency.

Moscow and Beijing traditionally act as brakes on Western attempts to tighten the sanctions vise on Iran.

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