Iran attacks UN's scrutiny, denies currency transfers

AGENCIES , TEHRAN

Mon, Jan 23, 2006 - Page 1

Iran yesterday denounced next month's emergency meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog as "political," but said it was not worried about the crisis over its disputed atomic drive ending up at the Security Council.

"We are not worried by the Security Council, but it is the wrong method," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

"An emergency meeting of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] is not necessary. It is a political act," he added.

Iran faces the threat of being referred to the Security Council for resuming sensitive nuclear fuel research work that Western powers and Israel fear would give the clerical regime the know-how to build a bomb.

Tehran insists such work is legal, given that it has signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and has branded atomic weapons "un-Islamic" -- but a lengthy IAEA probe has yet to confirm the claimed civilian nature of the program and has uncovered suspect activities.

Britain, France and Germany have called an urgent meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board for Feb. 2. The meeting is widely expected to result in Iran being referred to the Security Council, despite the reluctance of Russia and China.

"It is clear in advance that the result of a meeting that takes place under the pressure of certain countries will be political," Asefi said, complaining that "we have asked the Europeans to resume negotiations but, lacking any logic, they have not."

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz warned that his government would not tolerate a "nuclear option" for Iran -- taken to mean Israel would not accept seeing Iran master enrichment work.

On Thursday, French President Jacques Chirac said France might use nuclear weapons against state sponsors of terrorism -- although he did not single out any country.

Iran, however, has been quick to blast Chirac's remarks as "shameful" and "unacceptable."

"It is shameful for the people of France that their president brandishes atomic weapons on the pretext of fighting terrorism," said Gholam Ali Hadad-Adel, speaker of Iran's parliament.

Chirac, he claimed, was "trying to restore the prestige of France after the recent unrest, when young people took to the streets and torched hundreds of cars every night."

Meanwhile, Asefi yesterday said that Iran has transferred no money from its foreign accounts, denying reports from the central bank governor that such transfers had begun.

"So far we have not moved any hard currency, we have not transferred it," he told reporters at a news conference.