White House warns Iran over inspections stalemate

The White House on Wednesday sharply criticized Iran for blocking UN nuclear watchdog agency inspectors from key sites in its suspect atomic program, and suggested the stalemate would weigh on how Washington and its partners will respond to Tehran's recent offer for another round of negotiations.

While the United States "will continue to evaluate" Iran's letter to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, "this particular action by Iran suggests that they have not changed their behavior when it comes to abiding by their international obligations," press secretary Jay Carney said at his daily briefing.

The increasingly tense standoff is expected to dominate President Barack Obama's meeting on March 5 with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Iran denies charges from the United States and its allies that its nuclear program aims to develop atomic weapons.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations agency tasked with curbing the spread of nuclear weapons technology, said Tuesday that a delegation to Iran would return home after Tehran, which had invited the inspectors in, denied them access to a key site. The IAEA said in a November report that the military facility at Parchin could have been used to test high explosives of the sort that can detonate a nuclear bomb.

"We regret the failure of Iran to reach an agreement this week with the IAEA that would permit the agency to fully investigate the serious allegations raised in its November report," said Carney.

"It's important to note that the IAEA maintains regular access to both of Iran's enrichment facilities at Qom and Natanz," the spokesman said. "The IAEA was seeking additional access, that's what this visit was about, in line with Iran's safeguards obligations, to sites and facilities where Iran is suspected of conducting work related to weaponization activities."

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