Middle East

Iran accuses UN nuclear watchdog of sending in 'spies'

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano - 2 December 2010
Image caption IAEA relations with Iran have soured under Mr Amano's leadership

Iran has accused the UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, of sending foreign agents to spy on its nuclear programme.

Its intelligence minister also repeated the charge that Western spy agencies were behind the murder this week of an Iranian nuclear scientist.

His statement comes two days before Iran is to hold talks with the US and its allies on its nuclear programme.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Iran to participate in the talks in good faith.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency regularly visit Iran to monitor its nuclear activities.

Some Western nations, including the US and its allies, believe Iran's nuclear programme may be aimed at producing nuclear weapons.

Iran says its nuclear activity is for peaceful, civilian purposes.

'Terrorist act'

"The IAEA has been sending spies working for foreign intelligence gathering organisations among its inspectors, and it should be held accountable," Heidar Moslehi was quoted as saying by Iranian state television.

Relations between Iran and the IAEA have soured in recent months under the leadership of Yukiya Amano, who has taken a tougher line with Tehran than his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei.

Mr Moslehi said the killing on Monday of nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari in a car bomb attack and the wounding of another scientist in a separate attack in Tehran was the work of US, Israeli and British agents.

"This terrorist act was carried out by intelligence services such as the CIA, Mossad and the MI6," he said.

Talks in Geneva are due to start on Monday between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Russia, China, Britain and France - and Germany.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said he wanted the talks to go beyond his country's nuclear programme to include the "Iranian agenda". This includes Israel's widely suspected, but never declared, nuclear weapons.

Mrs Clinton urged Iran to enter the talks in good faith and with "a much more sober assessment of what isolation means", given successive rounds of UN sanctions.

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