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Iranian Official Warns of Less Nuclear Cooperation From Tehran - 2003-09-23

A senior Iranian official says his government will be less cooperative on inquiries about its nuclear program, following a tough resolution approved this month by the International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors.

Iran's representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency told Tehran television late Monday the country will no longer allow U.N. inspectors to take environmental samples and visit non-nuclear sites.

The ambassador, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Iran allowed such access in the past in an effort to show its good will and transparency. But he said those inspections were beyond Iran's obligations under current regulations of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The senior Iranian official said, from now on, Iran will only adhere to current regulations.

Iran faces a deadline of October 31 to show proof its nuclear facilities are not involved in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

The United States has said it believes Iran's push to build nuclear reactors is a cover for a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

Cairo-based Iran expert Mustafa el-Labbad said that is very likely. The editor-in-chief of Sharq Nameh, a magazine that focuses on Turkey and Iran, said he believes Iran is actively seeking to produce nuclear weapons.

"Yes, and it is not a matter of the current Iranian regime. It is a matter of Iran. As you know, the nuclear ambition was raised during the time of the late Shah of Iran. And, Iran is surrounded with countries which have this ambition such like Pakistan and such like India and in the region Israel also have this ambition and have this capability," he said. "So Iran, as the Iranian regime think, should have this capability in order to prove itself in the region. I think Iran will try all the time to have the capability."

Iran has vehemently denied any involvement in nuclear weapons, saying its program is solely for the safe and reliable generation of electricity.

A legal team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency is scheduled to arrive in Tehran soon for a second round of talks. The visit is aimed at getting Iran to agree to the non-proliferation treaty's additional protocol, which would allow for unannounced inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities.

Some hardliners in Tehran say signing the additional protocol would allow foreigners to spy on Iran. But the Iranian government has said it is considering allowing for the tougher inspections, as the U.N. Agency's board has demanded.