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Iran Chides UN's Ban Over Nuclear Comments

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon: "A question of transparency."
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- Iran has chided UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for criticizing its disclosure of a new nuclear plant, saying he was repeating "baseless" Western charges and should have awaited the views of UN experts.

At a meeting on September 25 with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Ban expressed "grave concern" about the uranium enrichment plant that is being built south of the Iranian capital, according to Ban's press office.

His view echoed those of U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In a statement released to media on September 29, Iran's UN Mission said Ahmadinejad had responded by saying Ban had forestalled the opinions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.

Ahmadinejad "said it is of grave concern that the UN Secretary-General, instead of waiting for the IAEA, as the competent body, to reflect on this issue...has chosen to repeat the same allegations that [a] few Western powers are making," the statement said.

Western powers have accused Tehran of concealing the nuclear plant until it was about to be discovered and repeated their worries the enriched uranium will be used to build atomic weapons. Iran says it only aims to produce electricity.

Ahmadinejad also had dismissed "baseless allegations of concealment" and said Iran had informed the IAEA of the plant a year earlier than it was obliged to under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the statement said. Ahmadinejad made similar comments at a news conference in New York on September 25.

"Iran has acted with utmost transparency in this regard and it should be encouraged for having done so instead of being unfairly criticized," the statement said.

Geneva Talks

Asked at a news conference about the Iranian criticisms, Ban repeated his view that the Iranian plant violated UN Security Council resolutions, which have called on Tehran to halt enrichment. Iran says it has the right to do so.

"I know that...[the Iranians] have informed the IAEA on September 21st about the existence of this, but then what has happened before September 21st while this facility was being constructed?" Ban said.

"Therefore there is clearly a question of transparency," he said, adding that Tehran should have notified the UN watchdog "long before."

Iran has said it is willing to let the IAEA inspect the facility, located near the city of Qom. Ban said he hoped the issue would be resolved through dialogue, with IAEA involvement.

Iranian officials and representatives of six major powers, including the United States, China, and Russia, will hold talks on Tehran's nuclear ambitions in Geneva on October 1.

Later on September 29, Ban met Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki and said he told him Iran faced "suspicion and distrust," but that the United Nations was ready to help Tehran "find some proper place in the international community" if it came clean about its nuclear program.

Ban told reporters he also raised with Mottaki past remarks by Ahmadinejad casting doubt on the Holocaust. He said he told the minister: "Don't let your president make such controversial remarks...[the Holocaust] is a proven historical fact."