Iran's nuclear chief said on Monday that "terrorists and saboteurs" might have infiltrated the International Atomic Energy Agency in an effort to derail his country's nuclear program.
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"Terrorists and saboteurs might have intruded the agency and might be making decisions covertly," said Iranian nuclear energy chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, speaking at the annual member state gathering of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday.
Abbasi-Davani also said explosives had been used to cut power lines from the city of Qom to the Fordow underground uranium enrichment plant on August 17. A day later, he said, IAEA inspectors had asked for an unannounced visit to Fordow.
"Does this visit have any connection to that detonation? Who other than the IAEA inspectors can have access to the complex in such a short time?" Abbasi-Davani told the gathering in Vienna.
"It should be recalled that power cut-off is one of the ways to break down centrifuge machines," he said, referring to the machines used to enrich uranium, which can have both civilian and military purposes.
Abbasi-Davani also rebuked the United States in his talk to the 55-nation general conference. Arguing that pressure on Iran was an attack on all developing nations' nuclear rights, Abbasi invoked U.S-led sanctions on its oil exports and transports and financial transactions as "the ugly face of colonialization and modern slavery."
The comments reflected Iran's determination to continue defying international pressure aimed at curbing its nuclear program and nudging it toward cooperation with the IAEA inspection.
Iran has often accused Israel and Tehran's Western enemies of being behind the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists and of trying to sabotage its nuclear program in other ways.
Tehran denies seeking nuclear arms and Abbasi, an Iranian vice president whom the agency suspects may have been involved in nuclear weapons research, again insisted on Monday that his country's nuclear program is aimed only at making reactor fuel and medical research.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran ... has always opposed and will always denounce the manufacture and use of weapons of mass destruction," he said.
The speech was bound to give a greater voice to hardline Israel leaders who say that both diplomatic efforts and economic penalties have failed to move Iran, leaving military strikes as the only alternative to stopping it from developing nuclear weapons.
In the past week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders to state clearly at what point Iran would face a military attack. On Sunday, Netanyahu made a direct appeal to American voters to elect a president willing to draw a "red line" with Iran.
Obama and his top aides, who repeatedly say all options remain on the table, have pointed to shared U.S.-Israeli intelligence that suggests Iran hasn't decided yet whether to build a bomb despite pursing the technology and that there would be time for action beyond toughened sanctions already in place.