Iran's IAEA Ambassador Soltanieh
Iran's IAEA Ambassador Soltanieh Reuters

Iran has accused the U.N. nuclear inspectors of spying for Western powers and said it would continue to enrich uranium as negotiations in Moscow approach with the aim of scaling back Teheran's nuclear energy program.

At the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency conference in Vienna Wednesday, Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh took a decidedly aggressive tone toward the agency in contrast to Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, who expressed optimism last month before talks in Baghdad that his country would come to an agreement with the IAEA on opening up sites to inspection.

The agency, which is supposed to be an international technical organization, is somehow playing the role of an intelligence agency, Soltanieh said. [Iran] will not permit our national security to be jeopardized ... Iran will never suspend its enrichment activities.

Iran is scheduled to meet with a six-nation negotiating bloc -- the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S.) plus Germany -- in Moscow on June 18-19 to continue negotiations from last month in Baghdad that failed to produce any substantive agreement.

The U.S. and its allies have accused Iran of using its nuclear program as a cover for developing nuclear weapons, and demanded that Iran scale back uranium enrichment as a precondition for negotiations over the lifting of sanctions targeting Iran's financial and energy sectors. Iran has rejected this demand, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful energy usage, and instead indicated an openness to allow U.N. inspectors to visit its nuclear facilities if sanctions are lifted.

Soltanieh's tone, however, casts doubt on Iran's willingness to work with the IAEA or come to a substantive agreement with the six-nation bloc in Moscow later this month.