(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran on Sunday announced it was partially suspending cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog agency, the Vienna-based IAEA, because of the latest UN Security sanctions imposed on it, a government spokesman said.
Gholam Hossein Elham, the spokesman, told state television that the suspension would "continue until Iran's nuclear case is referred back to the IAEA from the UN Security Council."
Elham said the government in a Cabinet meeting Sunday decided to suspend "code 1-3 of minor arrangements of the safeguards" with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The provision expects a member to inform the IAEA on any new steps and decisions made concerning a country's nuclear program.
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The move from Teheran was a gesture in apparent retaliation for the sanctions unanimously approved Saturday by the UN Security Council because of Teheran's refusal to stop enriching uranium.
The sanctions, which send a strong message to Teheran that its defiance will leave it increasingly isolated and warn of even tougher penalties ahead, were immediately rejected by Iran which said it had no intention of suspending its enrichment program.
Teheran claims it needs the uranium enrichment for electricity generating purposes while the United States and its allies fear the controversial program is used for nuclear arms making.
Elham, the government spokesman, said that until now Iran's cooperation with the IAEA went beyond the requirements under the international Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran is a signatory to.
In the past Iran has kept "promptly informing" the IAEA under the organization's safeguards about its nuclear plans, Elham said, while treaty requires a country to give a wide, six-month advance notice. In 2002, Iran began voluntarily implementing the IAEA safeguards.
Iran's measure is a response to "Saturday night's illegal and bullying resolution by Security Council," Elham said.
The government was acting fully within Iranian law in deciding to revise its cooperation with the IAEA.
The new, moderately tougher sanctions on Teheran include banning Iranian arms exports, and freezing the assets of 28 people and organizations involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs. About a third of those are linked to the Revolutionary Guard, an elite military corps that answers to Teheran leadership.
They also ask countries to restrict travel by the individuals subject to sanctions, as well as arms sales to Iran and new financial assistance or loans to the Iranian government.
The new measures have also asked IAEA to report back in 60 days on whether Iran has suspended enrichment and warned of further measures if it did not.
But it also said all sanctions would be suspended if Iran halts enrichment and made clear that Teheran can still accept a package of economic incentives and political rewards offered last year if it complies with the council's demands.