- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 28, 2010

TEHRAN — Iran’s supreme leader charged Sunday that the United States and its allies are behind the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency’s claim that Iran may be making nuclear bombs, despite its repeated denials.

The comments by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, broadcast on state television Sunday, came 10 days after the International Atomic Energy Agency said it was concerned Iran may be working on nuclear weapons, echoing conclusions reached by the United States and several of its allies.

“Some IAEA reports and actions show that this international agency lacks independence,” the television quoted Ayatollah Khamenei as saying. “The IAEA should not be influenced by the U.S. and some (other) countries because unilateral acts erode trust in the agency and the United Nations. It is also very bad for the prestige and reputation of these international bodies.”

The language of the report — the first written by Yukiya Amano, who became IAEA head in December — appeared to be more directly critical of Iran’s refusal to cooperate with the IAEA than most of those of his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei.

The IAEA is set to meet later this week to discuss Iran’s refusal to accept international demands to halt enrichment of uranium — a key step in the process toward nuclear weapons production, though enriched uranium also has peaceful uses.

According to the state TV, Ayatollah Khamenei again denied that Iran was seeking nuclear weapons and insisted that Tehran’s nuclear program is geared toward generating electricity.

“Iran has declared from the very beginning that it is after obtaining scientific capability and technology in the nuclear field to meet its peaceful requirements, including energy,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.

Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, accused the United States and its allies of “lying” when they charge Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.

Also Sunday, a senior commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards threatened Europe’s energy supply. In an apparent reference to the Iran-controlled Straits of Hormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, Gen. Hossein Salami was quoted by the Fars news agency as saying, “Iran stands on half of the world’s energy, and if it decides, Europe will live in cold in the winter.”

Iran said last week that it plans to build two new uranium enrichment facilities deep inside mountains to protect them from possible attack.

The two plants are among 10 industrial-scale uranium enrichment facilities approved in November, a dramatic expansion of the program in defiance of U.N. demands that Iran it halt enrichment.

Iran’s enrichment of uranium is the central concern of the United States and other nations negotiating with Tehran over its disputed nuclear program. The technology can be used to generate fuel for power plants and isotopes for medical purposes, but it also can be used to make weapons-grade uranium for nuclear bombs.

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