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TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's leader demanded an end to U.N. Security Council oversight of the country's nuclear program during a meeting with the chief of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, state-run television reported.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters in Iran, told International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei on Saturday that the IAEA should exclusively handle Iranian nuclear questions - not the Security Council.
"There is no justification for Iran's nuclear dossier to remain at the U.N. Security Council," state TV quoted Khamenei as telling ElBaradei.
Iran is under two sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment, a potential pathway to nuclear arms, and Washington is pushing for additional U.N. penalties.
But a recent U.S. intelligence assessment that Iran probably shut down a clandestine weapons program in 2003 has led to increased resistance to such a move from permanent Security Council members Russia and China, which have strategic and trade ties with Tehran.
Iran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium only to produce fuel for reactors that would generate electricity.
Many Iranian officials have called the Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency. Saturday's statements were the first along this line by Khamenei.
ElBaradei, who arrived in Tehran on Friday, urged Iran to "accelerate" its cooperation with the agency so he could address outstanding questions before he presents his next report to the IAEA Board of Governors in March.
The United States and its allies say that even if Iran no longer has an active weapons program, it could easily resume such work unless strong international oversight is put in place.
In November, an IAEA report said Iran had been generally truthful about key aspects of its nuclear history, but warned that its knowledge of Iran's present atomic work was shrinking.
[Last modified January 13, 2008, 01:16:15]