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U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Warns Against Pressuring It On Inspections

Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano. File photo
Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano. File photo
VIENNA, Jan 30 (Reuters) -

The U.N. nuclear watchdog policing Iran's deal with major powers said on Wednesday that attempts to pressure it on inspections were "counter-productive and extremely harmful", though it stopped short of naming those responsible.

Israel, which vehemently opposes the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, has called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit what it says is a "secret atomic warehouse" and other locations in Iran. The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has pulled his country out of the deal, has made similar calls.

The IAEA has bristled at such calls but used only guarded language in public, saying it does not take information at face value and assesses it independently, and then only sends inspectors to a specific location when necessary.

In a speech to staff on Wednesday, however, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano was blunt.

"If our credibility is thrown into question and, in particular, if attempts are made to micro-manage or put pressure on the agency in nuclear verification, that is counter-productive and extremely harmful," he said, according to a text of the speech posted online by the IAEA.

He did not elaborate on the attempts or those behind them.

The IAEA is policing the restrictions placed on Iran's nuclear activities under the deal, which also lifted international sanctions against Tehran.

Amano reiterated that Iran was continuing to keep its end of the bargain. Trump on Wednesday called top U.S. intelligence chiefs "extremely passive and naive" on Iran, a day after they contradicted his views in congressional testimony.

Amano was also more direct in making the case for his agency to be in charge of inspections in North Korea in the event of any political agreement being reached on that country's nuclear activities. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are due to hold their second summit in late February.

"The IAEA is the only international organisation that can verify the nuclear programme of the DPRK," said Amano, using the acronym of the country's official name -- the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Amano, a Japanese diplomat, has previously said his agency is best placed to do that job. It has not been granted access to North Korea since 2009, when Pyongyang threw out its inspectors.

"As far as the nuclear programme of the DPRK is concerned, we remain ready to play an essential verification role if a political agreement is reached among countries concerned," he said.