TEHRAN, (AP) — Iran’s intelligence chief accused the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency of sending spies in the guise of inspectors to gather information about Iran’s nuclear activities, state TV reported Saturday.
The claim was another sign that Iran has hardened its stance since the assassination a week ago of a prominent nuclear scientist and the wounding of another. Iran is to hold talks on Monday and Tuesday in Geneva with world powers trying to persuade it to curtail key elements of its nuclear work.
Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi said staff sent by the International Atomic Energy Agency had engaged in espionage and the Vienna-based agency must take responsibility for their actions. He did not elaborate or identify the inspectors Iran was accusing.
Iran has increasingly complained in recent months about the leaking of information gathered by the agency’s inspectors to U.S. officials and other allies.
“Among the individuals the IAEA sends as so-called inspectors, there are spies from intelligence services. The IAEA must be held responsible for this,” state TV quoted Moslehi as saying.
Iran says Monday’s killing of nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari in a bomb attack and the wounding of another scientist in a separate attack in Tehran was the part of a Western campaign to sabotage its nuclear program.
According to Iran, that campaign has included the abduction of Iranian scientists, the sale of faulty equipment and the planting of a destructive computer worm known as Stuxnet, which briefly brought Iran’s uranium enrichment activity to a halt last month.
Iran’s chief suspect is archenemy Israel, whose Mossad spy agency has a long history of assassinating foes far beyond the country’s borders.
Moslehi again accused Israel’s Mossad, Britain’s MI6 and the CIA of being behind the daring attacks.
Iran has also expressed its displeasure with IAEA chief Yukiya Amano’s report, issued this week, on its nuclear program. The report said Iran had fewer centrifuges functioning than previously believed, suggesting its uranium enrichment program was not progressing as fast as Iran hoped.
Iran says the IAEA should just inspect the nuclear facilities and not release details like how much uranium or how many centrifuges it has.
The U.S. and its allies suspect Iran’s nuclear work is aimed at producing weapons. Iran says it only wants to enrich uranium to make fuel for power plants and not process it to the higher levels needed to make weapons.