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Iran Deems Risk Of US Attack Very Weak

Iran's top national security official, Ali Larijani.
by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) Jan 25, 2007
Iran's top national security official, Ali Larijani, assessed as "very weak" Thursday the possibility of a pre-emptive US strike on his country's nuclear facilities. "The possibility of this is very weak and it's more a matter of psychological warfare," the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Larijani as saying.

"However, Iran is always ready to confront threats."

Earlier this month, US President George W. Bush ordered a second US aircraft carrier battle group to the Gulf and announced the deployment of Patriot anti-missile missiles to the region.

Washington was the most outspoken champion on the Security Council of its adoption of the first ever UN sanctions against Iran over its refusal to heed calls for a suspension of its uranium enrichment programme.

Iran insists that its nuclear activities are aimed solely at producing power for civilian needs, but the United States backs its Israeli ally in accusing the Islamic republic of covertly seeking to develop an atomic bomb.

Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar issued a similar message of defiance, vowing that Iran would repulse any strike, of whatever size.

"The Islamic republic's armed forces are in a state of complete readiness and are monitoring everything in order to give a crushing response to even the smallest aggression or threat," the ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.

"I advise Mr Bush and his advisors to be rational and think about their own nation's interest."

earlier related report
UN nuclear agency asks Iran to back off on rejection of 38 inspectors
Vienna (AFP) Jan 25 - The UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency has asked Iran to reverse its ban on 38 IAEA inspectors from working in the country, a spokeswoman told AFP on Thursday. The IAEA "requested Iranian authorities to reconsider their decision," spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.

The United States had Monday denounced Iran's barring some inspectors as an attempt to "dictate terms" to the international community in the standoff over Tehran's suspected nuclear weapons program, in comments by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Fleming said the IAEA sent the letter Wednesday calling for all 38 inspectors to be reinstated after an announcement in Iran Monday that the Islamic Republic was blocking them from entering the country.

The sharp IAEA response comes even as Iran has sent a letter to the agency asking for the removal of the man overseeing the IAEA's inspection of the Iranian nuclear program, which the United States claims hides the development of atomic weapons, diplomats told AFP.

Iran had banned Chris Charlier, who is Belgian, last April from entering the country but now wants him no longer to head the agency safeguards divsion on Iran at IAEA headquarters in Vienna.

"The IAEA recently received a letter from Iran, which has not been revealed to the press, vehemently protesting that Charlier is still responsible for Iran's nuclear file," said a diplomat who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the information.

The letter was confirmed by a second diplomat close to the IAEA.

The first diplomat said that Charlier is "known for his strict and firm attitude regarding Iran and he is frustrating Iran's efforts to conceal everything that concerns advancing the nuclear project."

Iranian officials have "even personally approached ElBaradei to dismiss Charlier from the IAEA," the diplomat said.

In December 2006, the Iranian parliament had adopted a bill requiring the government to revise its cooperation with the IAEA in retaliation after the UN Security Council that month passed a resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment work.

IAEA inspectors regularly visit Iranian nuclear sites under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory.

Fleming had Monday said there remained however "a sufficient number of inspectors designated for Iran and the IAEA is able to perform its inspection activities in accordance with Iran's Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement."

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters on Monday that "any country had the right to refuse admission to inspectors", a position confirmed by IAEA diplomats.

Last July, ElBaradei said that 200 inspectors were charged with investigating Iran's nuclear activities, but did not stay permanently in Iran.

Iran has already caused problems for inspectors by delaying some visas and restricting access to certain nuclear installations.

A diplomat close to the IAEA said some inspectors among the 38 banned this week "are actually working on Iran, the rest are not."

The banned inspectors are from Britain, France, Germany -- the three EU countries which have led nuclear talks with Iran -- as well as Canada and the United States, the diplomat said.

The diplomat said the ban "certainly hurts the IAEA's flexibility about using its resources to the maximum as there is a potential restriction in its numbers."

earlier related report
Military action on Iran would be 'catastrophic': El Baradei Davos, Switzerland (AFP) Jan 25 - UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed El Baradei on Thursday urged an end to talk of a military solution to the Iran nuclear crisis, saying any strike against Tehran would be "catastrophic".

"I hope we will stop talking about military action," El Baradei said during a discussion on nuclear proliferation at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"Military action against Iran would be counter productive and catastrophic," he said, stressing that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was unaware of any facility in Iran capable of producing nuclear weapons.

"Do they have the knowledge? Sure, they have the knowledge. Are you going to bomb the knowledge?" he said.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution last month imposing sanctions on Iran for its repeated refusal to cooperate fully with the Vienna-based IAEA or to suspend uranium enrichment.

Iran insists that its nuclear programme is solely aimed at meeting peaceful energy needs, but the West fears it could be diverted towards building an atomic bomb.

In Vienna on Thursday, IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the agency had asked Iran to "to reconsider their decision" to ban 38 IAEA inspectors from working in the country.

IAEA inspectors regularly visit Iranian nuclear sites under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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