ElBaradei cold 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
In an unprecedented meeting, Iran's top leader told the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Saturday that the UN Security Council had no remaining justification for focusing on the country's nuclear program, state-run television reported.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters in Iran, told Mohamed ElBaradei that the IAEA should exclusively handle Iranian nuclear questions, saying resolution of the controversy would be a "great success" for the UN nuclear watchdog.
Many Iranian officials, including hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have called Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency. But Saturday's statements were the first of this nature by Khamenei.
"There is no justification for Iran's nuclear dossier to remain at the UN Security Council," state TV quoted Khamenei as telling ElBaradei.
ElBaradei, who arrived in Teheran on Friday, urged Iran to "accelerate" its cooperation with the agency so he could address outstanding questions before he presents his next report to the IAEA Board of Governors in March.
Ahmadinejad said during a separate meeting with ElBaradei on Saturday that he hoped the IAEA would not be influenced by the "pressure of big powers" while probing Iran's nuclear program.
The US and many of its allies have accused Iran of using its nuclear program as a cover for future weapons development - a claim Teheran denies, saying its activities are focused on electricity generation.
"Some countries assume that the IAEA has been set up to enforce their policies," state TV quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. "This assumption disturbs natural and just conditions."
Khamenei said Iran would not succumb to US pressure on its nuclear program.
"The Americans wrongly assume that they will be able to break the Islamic Republic of Iran by pressuring Iran over the nuclear issue, but they will not be able to bring the Iranian nation to its knees by raising this issue or other issues," state TV quoted him as saying.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, told ElBaradei that Iran would not agree to UN Security Council demands that it suspend uranium enrichment, but insisted Teheran would not use the process to make weapons.
"Iran, while insisting on its obvious rights in attaining and using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, is committed to its obligations under the NPT (Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty)," state TV quoted Jalili as saying.
ElBaradei's trip overlaps with President George W. Bush's Middle East tour and comes as tensions between Washington and Teheran remain high following an incident Sunday in the Persian Gulf between the countries' respective navies.
Bush's attempt to rally international pressure against Iran's nuclear program has been complicated by a US intelligence report released last month saying Iran stopped its atomic weapons program in 2003 and had not resumed it.
Teheran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium only to produce fuel for reactors that would generate electricity. The US and its allies say that even if Iran no longer has an active weapons program, it could easily resume such work unless strong international oversight is put in place.
In November, an IAEA report said Iran had been generally truthful about key aspects of its nuclear history, but warned that its knowledge of Teheran's present atomic work was shrinking.