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. US warns Iran over 'downward spiral' with UN nuclear watchdog
CRAWFORD, Texas, Dec 27 (AFP) Dec 28, 2006
The United States warned Iran Wednesday against heading into a "downward spiral" of non-cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA after Tehran's parliament authorized the government to limit the agency's access to its atomic sites.

A White House spokesman, Scott Stanzel, urged the Islamic Republic to "immediately" conform to the demands of the UN Security Council to suspend its enrichment of uranium, a practice many fear is a cover for developing nuclear weapons.

"Iran has long been in non-compliance with its Non-Proliferation Treaty and required IAEA safeguard agreements," Stanzel said in Crawford, Texas, where President George W. Bush was spending the end of the year.

Further non-compliance by Iran "will worsen its situation in the eyes of the world" and generate further reports of non-compliance from the International Atomic Energy Agency, he said.

"It is hard to see how such a downward spiral is in the interest of the Iranian people," the spokesman said.

"We hope, therefore, that the Iranian regime will set aside threats and confrontation and will begin immediately to cooperate with all the requirements of the Security Council."

The spokesman's comments echoed an earlier statement by the State Department.

"We assume further reductions in Iran's already insufficient cooperation would likely lead to additional IAEA reports of additional Iranian non-compliance," spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said.

Earlier Wednesday, Iran's parliament approved a bill obliging the government to "revise its cooperation" with the UN nuclear watchdog in retaliation for Security Council sanctions imposed on Tehran.

The text of the bill, which also tells the government to "accelerate" Iran's controversial nuclear programme, was approved by an overwhelming majority in the conservative-controlled parliament, with 161 in favour and 15 against.

The move is set to further inflame tensions over the Iranian nuclear programme, which the Islamic republic has vowed to expand in defiance of the sanctions agreed by the UN Security Council last week.

Iran has refused to heed the council's demand to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that Western countries fear could be used to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran insists its atomic drive is entirely peaceful.

The formulation of the bill gives the government a free hand to limit cooperation with the Vienna-based IAEA. This could involve limiting UN inspections of its atomic sites, a move urged by several lawmakers.

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