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08-21-2006, 03:03 PM
Iran denies inspectors access to site


By GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press Writer
19 minutes ago

VIENNA, Austria - Iran has turned away U.N. inspectors wanting to examine its underground nuclear site in an apparent violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty, diplomats and U.N. officials said Monday.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the confidentiality of the information, told The Associated Press that Iran's unprecedented refusal to allow access to the facility at Natanz could seriously hamper international efforts to ensure that Tehran is not trying to make nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, Iran's supreme leader said Tehran will pursue nuclear technology despite a U.N. Security Council deadline to suspend uranium enrichment by the end of the month or face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has made its own decision and in the nuclear case, God willing, with patience and power, will continue its path," said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to state television.

His declaration came on the eve of Iran's self-imposed Tuesday deadline to respond to a Western incentives package for it to roll back its nuclear program. The United Nations has given Tehran until the end of August to suspend uranium enrichment.

Khamenei accused the United States of putting pressure on Iran despite Tehran's assertions that its nuclear program was peaceful. "Arrogant powers and the U.S. are putting their utmost pressure on Iran while knowing Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons," he said.

Iran said Sunday it will offer a "multifaceted response" to the incentives proposal. It insisted that it won't suspend uranium enrichment altogether.

At a news conference Monday, President Bush said the United States is getting an inkling of Tehran's response.

"We are beginning to get some indication, but we'll wait until they have a formal response," Bush said. "Dates are fine, but what really matters is will. And one of the things I will continue to remind our friends and allies is the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran."

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution last month requiring the halt to enrichment under threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.

Also Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed for a "solid answer" from Iran on the package.

"I still hope that it will be positive, although some signals have been very confused," said Merkel, whose country drew up the package with the five permanent Security Council members.

The proposal includes promises that the United States and Europe will provide civilian nuclear technology and that Washington will join direct talks with Iran.

Tehran says uranium enrichment does not violate any of its obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty, and that its nuclear program aims to produce electricity.

But U.N. officials suggested that its refusal to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors access to the underground nuclear site being built at Natanz was in itself a violation of the treaty because it contravenes Tehran's commitment under the pact to inform the Vienna-based watchdog of the progress of such projects.

Khamenei accused the West of wanting to obstruct scientific progress in the Islamic world and called for Islamic countries to stand together in the face of such pressure.