Iran threatens to cooperate less with U.N. nuclear inspection agency

By Thomas Erdbrink and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 11, 2010

TEHRAN -- Top Iranian officials threatened to scale back cooperation with the United Nations' nuclear watchdog on Thursday as a chorus of political leaders raged against new economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic's military establishment.

The threats came amid revelations about the Obama administration's use of sensitive intelligence -- including statements by an Iranian scientist who defected last year -- to win Security Council support for the sanctions.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad openly mocked the U.N. resolution, which he likened in a speech to "used napkins that need to be thrown in the garbage can," the Fars News Agency reported.

Senior lawmaker Ismail Kowsari said members of a key parliamentary committee would convene early next week to review the country's relations with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The U.N. agency uses inspectors and cameras to monitor Iran's nuclear facilities to ensure that no nuclear material is diverted for making nuclear bombs.

"The parliamentarians are very upset," Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told reporters in Vienna. He said, however, that Iran has no plans to withdraw completely from IAEA oversight "as of now."

The IAEA has received no formal notice from Iran about new restrictions on the agency's inspections. Iran had earlier unilaterally scaled back its cooperation with the agency, refusing, for example, to provide details about new uranium enrichment plants it says it intends to build.

"It is the inevitable bluster you see from Iran whenever a sanctions resolution passes," said David Albright, a former U.N. nuclear official and president of the Institute for Science and International Security. "They've already reduced cooperation so far, I'm not sure what else they can do."

The Obama administration secured votes for a fourth round of sanctions after sharing intelligence with other Security Council members about Iranian efforts to obtain technology used in making nuclear weapons. Albright, citing highly placed administration sources, said the intelligence included statements from an Iranian scientist who defected to the United States last June.

The scientist, Shahram Amiri, provided "information about nuclear weaponization," said Albright, who said he was briefed on the matter this week. Albright's account was confirmed by a U.S. official with access to classified files on Iran's nuclear program.

U.S. intelligence agencies have long maintained that Iran conducted secret research on nuclear warheads as recently as 2003.

A man claiming to be Amiri appeared in two videos aired this week on Web sites and on Iranian television. In one, the man says that he was abducted by U.S. and Saudi intelligence officials during a religious pilgrimage and that he was subjected to torture. In the second video, the man denies that he was kidnapped.

Albright, citing administration sources, said Amiri defected and asked to be resettled in the United States. He said the man's allegations about kidnapping and torture were apparently intended to ease pressure on relatives in Iran.

Warrick contributed from Washington. Staff writer Glenn Kessler in Barbados contributed to this report.

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