Monday 21 June 2010

Iran Bars Two UN Nuclear Inspectors

(June 21) -- Iran today announced that it was barring two United Nations nuclear inspectors from entering the country, in apparent retaliation for recent U.N. sanctions intended to slow the Islamic republic's atomic program.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, accused the two as yet unnamed International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors of leaking "false" information about the country's nuclear program.

"Last week, Iranian officials informed the [IAEA] that two of its inspectors will no longer be allowed to enter Iran," Salehi said, according to state broadcaster Press TV. "Not only had they disclosed information before the official issuance of the report, but also their report was false and unreal." Salehi did not name the report he had been offended by, or which allegations were incorrect.

The IAEA has not commented on the official's announcement, but Reuters today reported that a Western diplomat had confirmed the travel ban.

Theodore Karasik, research director at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, told the news agency that Iran's action was likely "the first of what will be many retaliations" for a fourth round of sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council earlier this month. The new measures ban the import of duel-use goods that could aid the country's nuclear and missile programs, and freeze the assets of individuals connected with the Revolutionary Guards, the ultraconservative force that controls Iran's atomic program.

America and its Western allies hope the blockade will encourage Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program, which they argue is aimed at creating weapons-grade material. Tehran denies the charge.

So far, though, U.N. sanctions -- together with unilateral restrictions imposed by the U.S. and European Union -- have had little impact on the regime's atomic activities, which have intensified in recent months. In its last report on Iran, in May, the IAEA said the country was preparing extra equipment to enrich uranium to higher levels and continued to stockpile nuclear material.

Despite mounting evidence that Iran is flouting anti-proliferation treaties, the nation's top defense body, the Supreme National Security Council, last week branded the new sanctions "illegal" and declared it would take all steps needed to defend national security. Those measures were hinted at on June 16, when the country's hard-line parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, warned America and other "adventurist" countries that if they inspected "the consignments of Iranian planes and ships, they should rest assured that we will reciprocate [by inspecting] their ships in the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea."

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