Iran bans UN nuclear inspectors

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The Independent Online

Iran has banned two UN nuclear inspectors from entering the country, a state media report said today.

The report, posted on the website of the state broadcasting company, quotes Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's nuclear department, as saying the Vienna-based International Agency for Atomic Energy, the UN nuclear watchdog, has been informed of the decision to ban the two inspectors. He did not name them.

The ban is the latest twist in Iran's deepening tussle with the IAEA and the West over its nuclear programme.

The United States says Iran's programme is geared towards making nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge.

Mr Salehi claimed the two inspectors' latest report on Iran was false and they disclosed its contents before the agency reviewed it.

In January, Iran told the IAEA it had carried out pyroprocessing experiments, prompting a request from the agency for more information - but then backtracked in March and denied conducting such activities.

In May, IAEA experts revisited the site - the Jabr Ibn Jayan Multipurpose Research Laboratory in Tehran - only to find that the electrochemical cell had been "removed" from the unit used in the experiments, according to the report.

Iran said it did not remove any equipment from the laboratory and that the experiment was not related to pyroprocessing, a procedure WHICH can be used to purify uranium metal used in nuclear warheads.

The UN Security Council slapped a fourth set of sanctions on Iran earlier this month over its nuclear programme.

The move followed Iran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a process which can be used for the production of fuel for power plants as well as material for warheads if enriched to a higher level.