Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Tuesday that his government would continue to allow the UN nuclear watchdog to inspect its nuclear facilities, adding that Iran's decision to bar 38 inspectors had been misinterpreted.
Ali Larijani said Iran would continue to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency within the framework of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
"Our cooperation with the IAEA is continuing on the basis of the NPT and the (treaty's) safeguards," IRNA quoted Larijani as saying Tuesday.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Monday that Iran had barred 38 IAEA inspectors from the country but other inspectors would be permitted to visit.
The move provoked fears that Iran was seeking to restrict IAEA access to its facilities.
"This is obviously not a sign of goodwill, nor a sign of willingness to cooperate with the international community," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei told reporters Tuesday.
In Vienna, IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said Monday that the UN agency was discussing the move with the Tehran government. "It should be noted, however, that there are a sufficient number of inspectors designated for Iran, and the IAEA is able to perform its inspection activities," Fleming said.
Larijani said there had been no change in Iran's cooperation with the IAEA.
"The issue is not the way the media has reflected it," Larijani was reported as saying by IRNA.
The official news agency reported that Larijani had a telephone conversation with IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei on Tuesday, but it did not elaborate.
Inspectors from the U.N. nuclear agency routinely visit Iran's nuclear facilities, including the uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, central Iran. The facility is where Iran is upgrading its enrichment program in defiance of the UN Security Council, which has demanded that Iran cease enrichment - a process that produces the material for nuclear reactors or bombs.
Last month, the UN Security Council imposed limited trade sanctions on Iran because of its refusal to halt enrichment. Days later, the country's parliament passed a motion that obliged the government to revise its cooperation with the IAEA, but gave it a free hand to determine the steps to be taken.
The decision to bar 38 inspectors was widely seen as retaliation for the Security Council resolution.
The United States and some of its allies accuse Tehran of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies this, saying its program is only to produce electricity from nuclear sources.