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Iran refuses to let IAEA take soil samples

Nuclear watchdog group urges Tehran to allow full access

From Kasra Naji

The IAEA called on Iran to let inspectors take environmental samples at the Natanz enrichment plant shown in this satellite photo.

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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran announced Friday that it will not allow inspectors to take environmental samples from suspected nuclear sites despite international pressure to do so.

Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, head of the Iran Atomic Energy Organization, said on state-run television that agreements Iran signed with the International Atomic Energy Agency do not allow the U.N. inspectors to test soil samples.

Earlier this month, Iranian officials refused to allow the IAEA inspectors to take samples from the site of a suspected nuclear facility near the Iranian capital.

"If the issue only concerned one site only, we could be less stringent and allow them to do that," he said. "But the problem is there is no end to this, and soon they would be asking to take environmental samples from a dozen sites, and this is not acceptable to us."

Aghazadeh's comment came a day after the IAEA officials urged Iran to grant its inspectors full access, "including taking of environmental samples."

The United States has called on Iran to prove its nuclear plans do not include building weapons. The Bush administration believes Iran is developing a nuclear arms capability and rejects Tehran's insistence that it is developing nuclear facilities to provide electricity.

In his 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush included Iran as part of what he called an "axis of evil," along with Iraq and North Korea.

Although Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, many Iranians back a robust nuclear policy, even a nuclear weapons program.

They say they do not see why Iran should not be a nuclear power when Pakistan, India and other world powers have nuclear weapons. Israel is also widely believed to have nuclear weapons but has never acknowledged it.

More than 150 members of the Iranian parliament have signed a statement backing the government's nuclear policies and have urged it not to give in to international pressure.

Iran has refused to sign the so-called Additional Protocol, which would allow IAEA inspectors to carry out inspections with little or no notice.

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