Iran challenges US over nuclear claims

The head of Iran’s atomic energy body denied on Tuesday that his country was hiding facilities from UN nuclear inspectors, just after Russia’s president reportedly refused to raise the dispute with a visiting Israeli official.

    Aghazadeh (R) with IAEA chief
    Mohammed al-Baradei: Iran says
    it has no hidden facilities

    Gholam Reza Aghazadeh challenged the United States to provide hard evidence to support claims that Iran was seeking to develop nuclear weapons.


    “There are no remaining facilities that should be declared under the provisions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)”, he said.


    Last week, an IAEA report found that Iran had failed to fully comply with the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but that it was taking steps to rectify the problem.


    Washington immediately said that the IAEA findings were “deeply troubling”, adding to the massive pressure it was exerting on Iran.


    The United States accuses the Islamic republic of using civil atomic energy programmes as a cover to develop nuclear weapons.


    US failures


    But Aghazadeh criticised the US failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the main argument used by Washington to convince the world of the need to go to war.


    He said that the United States should “first clear up your embarrassment in Iraq before being embarrassed again over your accusations against Iran”.


    Aghazadeh said the IAEA had a responsibility to “eliminate the discrimination against Iran and ensure the equal treatment of member states”.


    US officials were quoted in The New York Times last month as saying that Washington was putting pressure on IAEA member states to consider Iran a violator of the NPT.


    Member states are scheduled to meet on 16 June in Vienna.


    Aghazadeh urged the international community to ask Israel how it had acquired the technology for its nuclear arsenal.


    Russia tired of Israel


    His comments followed a visit made to Russia by Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.


    A Russian business daily, Kommersant, reported on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin “politely refused” to meet Shalom because of their differences over Iran.


    Russia is constructing Iran’s first nuclear power reactor.


    “The Kremlin has grown tired of US and Israeli reproaches about this subject”, the newspaper wrote.


    But the Israeli embassy’s press attaché in Moscow dismissed the paper’s claims as “journalistic inventions”.


    Shalom said after his meeting with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov on Monday that Iran has repeatedly called for the elimination of Israel. “And now it is developing nuclear weapons with this aim”.


    Al-Qaeda accusations


    In the meantime, US accusations that Iran was harbouring al-Qaeda members continued.


    The Washington times quoted unnamed US intelligence officials as saying that a top al-Qaeda associate in connection with the murder of a US diplomat in Jordan in October had sought refuge in Iran.


    The United States accuses Iran of harbouring al-Qaeda members who were involved in the 12 May bombings in Riyadh.


    The bombings killed 35 people, including eight Americans.   


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