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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iran Denies Access to 38 Nuclear Inspectors

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran has barred 38 inspectors with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, from entering the country, an Iranian lawmaker was quoted by Iran's ISNA news agency as saying Monday.

Also Monday, the country's most senior dissident cleric said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's aggressive nuclear diplomacy had harmed the country, joining a chorus of criticism that has included even the hard-line leader's conservative allies.

The head of the parliament's Foreign Affairs and National Security Commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, did not give details about which IAEA inspectors had been barred but said the restriction was not based on nationality.

IAEA inspectors make routine checks of Iran's nuclear facilities, but last summer Iran temporarily denied visas to some inspectors and curtailed the frequency of visits to atomic sites by inspectors already in the country to convey its anger over Western pressure.

Iran is embroiled in a standoff over its nuclear program, which the West says is aimed at making atomic bombs despite Tehran's denials.

"Iran has decided not to give entry permission to 38 inspectors from the IAEA and has announced this limitation to the IAEA officially," Boroujerdi told ISNA.

"The nationality of those who were barred is not the main basis for us," he added, without giving any further details.

Iranian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The United Nations Security Council passed a sanctions resolution Dec. 23 against Iran, calling for the suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment program.

In response, Iran's parliament passed a bill obliging the government to revise its cooperation level with the IAEA and to accelerate its nuclear work. Iran has yet to carry out the threat.

The sanctions have also sent shockwaves through the Iranian economy, where prices of fruit, vegetables and food staples have skyrocket since their imposition.

Comments by Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri released Monday reflected a growing feeling among many that Ahmadinejad has concentrated too much on fiery, anti-U.S. speeches and not enough on the economy.

Montazeri, 85, is one of a few grand ayatollahs, the most senior theologians of the Shiite Muslim faith. He had been the designated successor of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the 1979 Islamic revolution, until he fell out with Khomeini shortly before his 1989 death after complaining about powers wielded by unelected clerics.

He said Iranians have the right to nuclear power, but questioned Ahmadinejad's dealings with the international community in obtaining it.

"One has to deal with the enemy with wisdom, not provoke it," he said.

"This [provocation] only creates problems for the country," he told a group of reformists and opponents of Ahmadinejad on Friday in the holy city of Qom, 80 miles south of Tehran.

"Some countries don't have oil and gas. Yet, they run their country and stand on their own. We have so much oil and gas but make useless expenditures work for others and don't think of our own people's problems and the price of basic commodities go higher and higher every day," Montazeri said.

(Reuters, AP)