Iran shuns Britain's appeal for nuclear inspectors

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The Independent Online

Iran rejected an appeal from the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, yesterday for more intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities, amid fears that the country may be developing nuclear weapons.

The Iranian Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi, said his country was not yet ready to accept the demands. While Iran was prepared to consider the need to be more "transparent" on its nuclear intentions, Tehran needed to know more about what was expected of it.

"We have nothing to hide. We are ready to co-operate but that must be done within our commitments," he said.

Mr Straw is spending two days in Iran as it deals with the aftermath of domestic demonstrations and faces international pressure on issues ranging from its nuclear programme to terrorism, human rights and its role in the political reconstitution of Iraq.

Mr Straw warned Iran of the urgency of international calls for it to sign two additional protocols of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. A 16 June report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had failed fully to uphold the treaty and asked it to sign the additional protocols to guarantee future compliance. The new protocols would give the body extra rights to inspect Iranian facilities.

The visit, Mr Straw's fourth to the country, also coincides with tension between Tehran and London over comments made by Tony Blair about the recent 10 days of demonstrations in several cities of the country. Iran's Foreign Ministry called in the British ambassador to file an official complaint about the remarks, which expressed British support for people who the Prime Minister said were "fighting for freedom".

The Iranian prosecutor general said on Friday that some 4,000 people had been arrested during the demonstrations, which turned violent when armed vigilantes, apparently from the conservative Basij militia, attacked protesters.

Some of those arrested were taken away by the Basij, rather than uniformed police, and not all have yet been accounted for.

Four members of Iran's reformist-dominated parliament are now holding a sit-in to protest against the students' treatment. More than 160 MPs signed a letter at the height of the protests calling for radical change in the structure of the Islamic Republic. Some say they have had death threats.

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