The Iranian government has laid out several conditions for its cooperation with the United Nations on the inspection of its nuclear facilities.
Iran has until October 31 to convince the International Atomic Energy Agency that it is not developing nuclear weapons, and to agree to a system of more rigorous monitoring and inspections. Otherwise, it faces possible U.N. sanctions.
Iran has said repeatedly the country's nuclear research is peaceful, and expressed willingness to cooperate with U.N. inspections. But former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said Friday that inspectors would not be allowed access to places of worship, nor to military sites designated by the government as non-nuclear.
Shiekh Rafsanjani's comments came after weekly prayers at Tehran University, and were broadcast nationwide on state television. He criticized the intense Western pressure on Iran to cooperate with the IAEA as hypocritical, and said the conditions were necessary to guard Iranian sovereignty.
So far, 80 countries have signed the additional protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which grants broader powers to the IAEA, and permits unannounced inspections. The United States has signed, but not yet ratified, the protocol.
The IAEA has also demanded that Iran halt its uranium enrichment program, but Tehran says it will continue the program as part of its nuclear energy policy. Officials from the atomic agency arrived in Tehran on Thursday to begin the final round of negotiations, and the first team of inspectors could arrive as early as Saturday.
The Tehran-based daily newspaper, Al Sharq, said that the United States and its allies are eager to impose sanctions, and predicted that Washington will demand further concessions, even if Iran does sign the required protocol.