Iran nuclear plant in Bushehr, AP
Technicians measuring parts of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant in this undated photo. Photo by AP
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Brazil's foreign minister says his country's active support of Iran in its dispute with the West over its nuclear program is being scaled back after the UN Security Council decision to move for a fourth set of sanctions.

"We will help whenever we can, but of course there is a limit to where we can go," Celso Amorim told reporters on the sidelines of an official visit to Austria.

Brazil and Turkey last month brokered an Iranian nuclear fuel-swap deal in hopes that they would at least delay new UN sanctions, but the new penalties were imposed nonetheless.

Iran has barred two UN nuclear inspectors from entering the Islamic Republic, adding to tension less than two weeks after Tehran was hit by new UN sanctions over its disputed atomic program.

Officials accused the two unnamed inspectors of providing wrong information that some nuclear equipment was missing in a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month and declared them persona non grata.

They made clear Iran would still allow the Vienna-based UN watchdog to monitor its nuclear facilities, saying other experts could carry out the work.

"Inspections are continuing without any interruption," Iran's IAEA envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters in Vienna.

But, "we have to show more vigilance about the performance of the inspectors to protect the confidentiality," he said, criticizing alleged leaks by inspectors to Western media.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said Tehran had asked the IAEA to replace the two inspectors, the ISNA news agency reported.

There was no immediate comment from the IAEA, but a diplomat confirmed that Iran had notified the agency of the ban.

Iran has the right to refuse certain inspectors under its agreement with the agency, which has around 200 people who are trained to conduct inspections in the Islamic state. Iran denied entry to a senior U.N. inspector in 2006.

Theodore Karasik, research director at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said he believed Iran's decision was in retaliation for the latest sanctions.

The United Nations Security Council on June 9 imposed a fourth round of punitive measures on the major oil producer because of nuclear activity the West suspects is aimed at making bombs. Tehran denies the charge.

Iran has branded the sanctions, which among other things target its banking and shipping sectors, as "illegal" and lawmakers have warned of scaling back ties with the IAEA.

"It is part of the escalation ladder of tit-for-tat that is now beginning to emerge," Karasik said in Dubai.

Brazil hopeful on fuel plan

The IAEA's report in May said some nuclear equipment had gone missing from a Tehran site where Iran had started researching production of uranium metal, which has both civilian and weapons applications.

Iran denied that the equipment -- an electrochemical cell -- had disappeared from the research laboratory and said inspectors had incorrectly described the work taking place there.

"We gave documents, pictures, everything, which proved this was a mistake," Soltanieh said.

Salehi said Iran last week announced the two IAEA inspectors were banned for an "utterly untruthful" report.

"We asked that they would not ever send these two inspectors to Iran and instead assign two others," he added.

Last month's IAEA report also showed Iran pushing ahead with higher-level uranium enrichment and failing to answer questions about possible military dimensions to its nuclear work.

Enriched uranium can provide fuel for nuclear power plants, or material for bombs if refined much further.

Washington, which was leading the push to impose new UN sanctions, at the time said the IAEA report underscored Iran's refusal to comply with international requirements.

Ties between Iran and the IAEA have become more strained since Yukiya Amano took over as head of the agency in December.

The Japanese diplomat has taken a tougher approach on Iran than his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei, with the IAEA saying in a February report that Iran could be trying to develop a nuclear-armed missile now, and not just in the past.