TEHRAN, Iran – A leading politician said Friday that Iran will grant greater access to U.N. nuclear inspectors, as long as they do not harm "the country's security, values and sacred places."
Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani (search) was delivering the Friday prayers sermon at Tehran University while, in another part of the city, representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency (search) negotiated for the right to unfettered inspections in Iran.
Rafsanjani, who served as president in 1989-97, heads the influential Expediency Council. He is seen as a pragmatic conservative and is a close adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (search).
The U.N. nuclear watchdog has set an Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to prove it is not producing nuclear weapons — as the United States strongly suspects. Failure to satisfy the IAEA could result in the issue being referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
"Our conditions are ... [the inspections] should not harm the country's security, values and sacred places," Rafsanjani said. He did not elaborate, but his remarks could be interpreted as saying military sites would be off-limits.
"We haven't made our final decision yet, but I think this is the crux" of Iran's position, he said in the sermon, which was broadcast on national television and radio.
Representatives of the Vienna-based IAEA arrived in Iran on Wednesday.
Rafsanjani said Iran would cooperate with the U.N. agency "despite all the impoliteness and unkindness we have seen."
Iran has protested the Oct. 31 deadline and said it's nuclear program is to generate electricity as its oil reserves decline.
In recent weeks Iran has twice confirmed that particles of weapons-grade uranium had been found in separate places in the country. The government said the particles came from imported nuclear equipment that had been contaminated.