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Latest update : 2008-11-28

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei accused Iran of showing the UN nuclear watchdog "utter disrespect" on the first stage of a two-day meeting in Vienna with both the Syrian and Iranian dossiers in the spotlight.

Iran is showing "utter disrespect" for the U.N. nuclear watchdog by ignoring unanswered questions about its atomic programme, European powers said on Thursday.

Officials close to the International Atomic Energy Agency said last week its inquiry into suspected atom bomb research by Iran had degenerated into a standoff with neither side speaking since September, soon after Iran asserted "the matter is over".

"(This has been) two months of utter disrespect for the agency and members of this board," Britain, France, and Germany said in a statement to the IAEA's 35-nation governing body.

British Ambassador Simon Smith, delivering the "EU-3" statement, said some on the U.N. nuclear executive were originally confident Iran would cooperate with the probe.

"Iran's dismissive response to these expressions of confidence is all too starkly set out in the report before this board, with its unmitigated record of refusal to cooperate," the statement said.

Iran's denial of an IAEA request to check design details at a research reactor under construction and its failure to provide preliminary design data for a nuclear power plant planned at Darkhovin were of particular concern, he said.

Iran's programme was dangerous because it "continues and intensifies a threat to the stability of a troubled region", the statement said.

Iran says it is enriching uranium only to generate electricity. The West suspects Iran's programme is a front for efforts to develop atomic bomb fuel.

The IAEA has struggled to get to the bottom of U.S. intelligence suggesting that Iran in the past melded projects to process uranium for atomic fuel, test high explosives at unusually high altitudes and revamp the cone of a long-range Shahab-3 missile in a way that would fit a nuclear warhead.

A previous IAEA report in September detailed the Islamic Republic's non-cooperation with requests for documents and access to sites and officials and physicists for interviews.

The investigation has not advanced an inch since then, with no letters, meetings or even talks by phone, U.N. officials say.

Iran says the U.S. intelligence is forged and sites the IAEA wants to visit are conventional military facilities that any nation would keep off-limits on security grounds. It argues they are therefore beyond the remit or competence of U.N. inspectors.

Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh again rebuffed Western criticism, saying Iran had given the IAEA all assurances it needed of its peaceful intentions.

He was alluding to more than 200 pages of documents it turned over in June, but which the IAEA judged inadequate.

Condemning Western pressure on Iran, he add: "(We) warn that the authority, independence, credibility and integrity of the IAEA are at high risk and urge an end to the dangerous process and status quo before it is too late."

Date created : 2008-11-28