- Associated Press - Monday, June 21, 2010

TEHRAN (AP) — Iran said Monday it has banned two U.N. nuclear inspectors from entering the country because they disclosed to the media the contents of a “false” report on the country’s disputed nuclear program before the U.N. nuclear watchdog reviewed it.

A report posted on the Web site of the state broadcasting company quoted Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, as saying the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, has been informed of the decision to ban the inspectors, whom he did not identify.

The ban is the latest twist in Iran’s deepening tussle with the Vienna-based IAEA and the West over its nuclear program. The United States and Israel say Iran’s program is geared toward making nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, insisting that it is for peaceful purposes only.

Earlier this month, Mr. Salehi rejected the report by the agency as “false with the purpose of influencing public opinion.”

In January, Iran told the IAEA it had carried out pyroprocessing experiments, prompting a request from the agency for more information — but then backtracked in March and denied conducting such activities.

IAEA experts in May revisited the site — the Jaber Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Research Laboratory in Tehran — only to find out that the electrochemical cell had been “removed” from the unit used in the experiments, according to the report.

Iran said it did not remove any equipment from the laboratory and that the experiment was not related to pyroprocessing, a procedure that can be used to purify uranium metal used in nuclear warheads.

The U.N. Security Council slapped a forth set of sanctions on Iran earlier this month over its nuclear program. The move followed Iran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a process which can be used for the production of fuel for power plants as well as material for warheads if enriched to a higher level.