Iran has barred two UN nuclear inspectors from entering the Islamic Republic, a senior official was quoted as saying today, in a further escalation of an international dispute over Tehran’s atomic ambitions.
The move came after the United Nations Security Council on June 9 imposed a fourth round of sanctions on the major oil producer because of nuclear activity the West suspects is aimed at making bombs. Tehran denies the charge.
The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the two inspectors were declared persona non-grata for filing an “untruthful” report by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the country’s nuclear work.
Salehi did not name them nor give details over what elements of the report he did not believe were accurate. There was no immediate comment from the Vienna-based IAEA.
In its latest report on Iran in late May, the agency said the country was preparing extra equipment to enrich uranium to higher levels and also continued to stockpile nuclear material.
Enriched uranium can provide fuel for nuclear power plants, or material for bombs if refined much further.
The nine-page report showed Iran pushing ahead with higher-level enrichment and failing to answer the agency’s questions about possible military dimensions to its nuclear work and address concerns about possible undisclosed activities.
Washington, which was leading the push to impose new UN sanctions, at the time said the IAEA report underscored Iran’s refusal to comply with the international requirements.
Iran, the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, has reacted angrily to the latest sanctions, branding them “illegal.” Lawmakers have warned of a possible reduction in ties with the IAEA.
Citing Salehi, ISNA said “Iran last week announced that these two (inspectors) would not have the right to enter Iran due to submitting wrong…information as well as disclosing classified information before the proper official time.”
“Their report was utterly untruthful and … we asked that they would not ever send these two inspectors to Iran and instead assign two others,” Salehi said.
Relations between Iran and the IAEA have become more strained since Yukiya Amano took over as head of the agency last December.
The Japanese diplomat has taken a tougher approach on Iran’s nuclear programme than predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei, with the IAEA saying in a February report that Iran could be trying to develop a nuclear-armed missile now, and not just in the past.
Iran accused him of issuing a misleading and unbalanced report.