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Republicans raise new concerns over Iran nuclear inspections

Congressional Republicans on Wednesday expressed concern over a report that the international watchdog agency charged with monitoring nuclear activity will let Iran use its own inspectors to report on one particular site.

According to the Associated Press, the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has agreed to let Iran use its own inspectors to monitor the Parchin nuclear site. The site was suspected of nuclear weapons development in the past, but it is not presently a suspected weapons development site.

The reported agreement is separate from the major nuclear agreement that President Obama and other nations have negotiated with Iran. Still, Republicans on Wednesday said the reported Parchin agreement has serious implications for the broader nuclear deal.

"Why should Iran be trusted to carry out its own nuclear inspections at a military site it tried to hide from the world?" House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. "How does this not set a precedent for future inspections at suspicious military sites in Iran?"

The State Department said it takes issue with certain factual elements of the AP report but refused to elaborate on a "purported" draft document mentioned in the story, CBS News State Department correspondent Margaret Brennan reports.

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White House National Security Spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that the administration is "confident" in the IAEA's technical plans for investigating Iran's former nuclear program. Just as importantly, he said, the IAEA is comfortable with arrangements that are unique to the agency's investigation of Iran's historical activities.

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Price did not elaborate on the technical details of the inspections process that would give the U.S. and IAEA confidence in inspections handled by the Iranians.

However, Price added, "When it comes to monitoring Iran's behavior going forward, the IAEA has separately developed the most robust inspection regime ever peacefully negotiated to ensure Iran's current program remains exclusively peaceful."

Serge Gas, the head of the IAEA's Office for Public Information and Communication, remarked to CBS News's Pamela Falk Thursday that, "As said previously by the agency, the separate arrangements of the road-map are safeguards confidential; we have a legal obligation to protect them and we cannot discuss or comment on their contents. As also stated by the agency, the separate arrangements of the Road-map are consistent with the IAEA verification practice and they meet the IAEA requirements."

Still, Falk points out, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano has conceded that the agency has not had the access it needs to the Parchin military complex. He told CBS News in April, before the current overall agreement was signed, "We are requesting to have access to Parchin, because it's part of the possible military dimension."

"We started to ask about the access to Parchin, but so far, we have not got the grant of access by Iran," he continued. "By the remote monitoring -- I mean surveillance by satellite -- we have observed lots of activities so we are afraid that our verification capability is negatively impacted by these activities. But we want to go to the site and we want to see."

In June, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. and its allies were "not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did" in the past. "We know what they did," he said. "We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to certain military activities they were engaged in. What we're concerned about is going forward."

The U.S. Congress plans to vote in September on the Iran deal. However, Iran has until October 15 to give answers to the IAEA about Parchin and other outstanding issues.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-California, said in a statement that "international inspections should be done by international inspectors. Period."

"The standard of 'anywhere, anytime' inspections - so critical to a viable agreement - has dropped to 'when Iran wants, where Iran wants, on Iran's terms,'" he said. "For weeks, Congress has been demanding access to this document to assess the viability of the inspections measures. Congress must now consider whether this unprecedented arrangement will keep Iran from cheating. This is a dangerous farce."

Meanwhile, the administration is concerned about Russia's intent to sell a defensive weapons system to Iran. Russia has committed to deliver the S-300 air defense missile to Iran by the end of this year, CBS News Pentagon correspondent David Martin reports.

The U.S. had previously prevailed on Russia not to deliver the S-300, but now that the nuclear deal has been signed the deal is back on. Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, the State Department spokesman, noted Tuesday that Secretary of State John Kerry has spoken previously to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about the United States' concerns.

"We've been making very clearly our objections to any sale of this missile system to Iran, as I said, for quite some time, and we'll continue to monitor it closely," Kirby said, noting that the transfer of this defensive system to Iran is not prohibited under U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The S-300 is an air-defense system comparable to the U.S. Patriot system and would complicate any potential American plan to knock out Iran's nuclear facilities.

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