Iran bars two UN weapons inspectors for spreading 'false information'

Iran says two United Nations weapons inspectors spread false information about Tehran's nuclear program, and both are now unwelcome. Analysts see it as a reaction to the newest round of UN sanctions on Iran.

By , Correspondent

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    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gestured while speaking during the opening of the International Conference of Islamic World Publishers in Tehran June 20, 2010. Iran has barred two UN weapons inspectors for spreading 'false information' about Iran's nuclear program.
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Iran has barred two United Nations weapons inspectors from entering the country because, Tehran alleges, they filed false reports on its nuclear program.

The defiant move could renew international tensions over Iran's program. Tehran insists the program is for civilian energy and research purposes but the US, Israel, and others suspect its aim is to produce nuclear weapons. (See a map of Iran's suspected nuclear facilities from Agence France-Presse.)

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"We called for banning their arrival in Iran for inspection, since they have also disclosed information before it had been examined officially and they had provided media with false information on Iran's nuclear work," Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said in a report posted on the website of Iran's official ISNA news agency. He did not identify the UN inspectors.

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A report at Hamsayeh.net, an Iran-based news website, said the two banned individuals had compiled a "fictitious" report on Iran's nuclear program that was later cited by the United Nations Security Council. It also accused the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), of being biased.

Over the years, US and Western powers influences at the IAEA have transformed this supposedly independent agency as a tool in the hands of Washington and allies for conducting clandestine activities against other countries' legitimate nuclear programs.

There was no official reaction from the IAEA. But Reuters reports that a diplomat has confirmed that Iran notified the agency of the ban, which is likely retaliation for the newest round of sanctions placed on the Islamic Republic.

Iran's move was "the first of what will be many retaliations" for the sanctions, said Theodore Karasik, research director at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, in a Reuters interview. "It is part of the escalation ladder of tit for tat that is now beginning to emerge."

The UN passed a fourth, stricter round of sanctions on Iran on June 9 for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment – a process that can be used to make nuclear weapons. The newest sanctions target companies doing business with Iran's Revolutionary Guards or trucking in nuclear and ballistic missile materials, and authorize the search of ships for suspected weapons, The New York Times reported.

The US and the European Union also passed their own unilateral sanctions, which go further than the UN's measures; the EU's sanctions came last week, as reported in the Monitor. Additional measures that look set to be passed by the US Congress would also target foreign banks who do business with Iran, the Financial Times reported.

On Sunday, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Fox News he thought the new round of sanctions had a "real potential" of forcing Iran to change course. Gates also told Fox News that Iran was moving toward military leadership:

"Actually, what we've seen is a change in the nature of the regime in Tehran over the past 18 months or so. You have – you have a much narrower based government in – in Tehran now. Many of the religious figures are being set aside," he said.

"They appear to be moving more in the direction of a military dictatorship. Khamenei is leaning on a smaller and smaller group of advisers."

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Sunday insisted that his country would continue its drive to go nuclear, according to The Tehran Times.

“What heartens us is our strong logic… and hence will continue to (insist on) our rational and just position,” Mottaki said in a joint press conference with his Senegalese counterpart Madike Niang.

Pointing to the letters sent by U.S. President Barack Obama to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan encouraging them to enter dialogue with Iran, Mottaki said, “Obama’s got a negative point. Every day they add a new leaf to the file of their mistakes.”

Iran, Brazil, and Turkey signed in May the so-called "Tehran declaration" that would see Iran transfer low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for highly enriched nuclear rods for Tehran's research reactor.

In April, top US military officials said Iran could produce weapons-grade fuel sufficient for one nuclear bomb within a year, but would likely need two to five years to actually build such a bomb, according to a timeline and overview of Iran's nuclear program from The New York Times.

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