Iran cites nationality for refusing to let in U.N. nuclear expert

Ambassador Reza Najafi declined to reveal the nationality of the IAEA official, but other diplomats said the individual is American

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Iran said on Wednesday it did not let a U.N. atomic agency official into the country as part of a team investigating its disputed nuclear activities because of the person's nationality.

Ambassador Reza Najafi declined to say what country the IAEA official came from. But other diplomats have told Reuters the individual, who five times has been denied entry into Iran, is American and a nuclear weapons expert.

"We decided not to issue a visa for that specific staff of a certain nationality," Najafi told Reuters, adding this had nothing to do with Iran's work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). "This is because of the nationality."

Iran and the United States have had no diplomatic ties since shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted the U.S.-backed shah. But tensions have eased over the last year and the two countries are now trying to negotiate an end to their dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme by a Nov. 24 deadline.

Najafi said it was Iran's sovereign right who to allow onto its territory. He said Iran had given visas to other members of the IAEA's team, which is seeking to advance a long-stalled investigation into suspected atomic bomb research by Tehran.

Iran denies Western allegations that it has been trying to develop a capability to assemble nuclear weapons and has promised to cooperate with the IAEA to clarify the matter.

But its repeated failure to provide a visa to one IAEA expert may reinforce an impression in the West of a continuing reluctance by Tehran to fully answer allegations that it has worked on designing a nuclear-armed missile.

An IAEA report issued last week showed that Iran was failing to address the suspicions under an agreed timetable. Najafi said the IAEA had shown no authentic documentation backing up its case.

Friday's report said Iran on four occasions withheld a visa for one member of the IAEA's team, including for a visit to
Tehran in October. Diplomats said the same person was not able to travel to Iran's capital for another IAEA trip on Nov. 2 to press for progress in the investigation.

For the U.N. agency "to be able to address the outstanding issues effectively, it is important that any staff member ... with the requisite expertise is able to participate in the agency's technical activities in Iran," the report said.

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