TEHRAN, Iran - Iran said Sunday that environmental samples taken from a military complex this weekend by UN nuclear inspectors will prove that the country's atomic program is for peaceful purposes and not for making weapons as the United States alleges.
Meanwhile, the New Yorker magazine reported Monday that Washington has been conducting secret reconnaissance of Iranian nuclear installations inside that country for several months as a possible prelude to a military strike.
The report, written by Seymour Hersh, who broke the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal, said Washington has been "conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer" for the purpose of gathering intelligence and for targeting information.
Hersh wrote that he had been repeatedly told by intelligence and military officials, on condition of anonymity that, "the next strategic target was Iran."
Dan Bartlett, the Bush administration's communications director, said he had read excerpts of Hersh's article.
"I think it's riddled with inaccuracies," he said. "And I don't believe that some of the conclusions he's drawing are based on fact."
On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency took samples from landscaped areas of the huge Parchin complex, which Washington believes may be involved in nuclear weapons research.
"We know what the result will be," Asefi told reporters. "Since we have never done any illegal activity, definitely the result will prove our declarations."
The UN nuclear watchdog had been pressing Tehran for months to be allowed to inspect the Tehran-area complex, long used to research ammunition, missiles and high explosives.
The United States has alleged that the Iranians may be testing high-explosive components for a nuclear weapon, using an inert core of depleted uranium at Parchin as a dry run for how a bomb with fissile material would work.
Bartlett told CNN that the White House wanted to resolve Iran's nuclear file through negotiation, primarily by relying on European allies and the IAEA. But he added that Bush has not ruled out resolving the issue militarily.
"No president at any juncture in history has ever taken military options off the table," Bartlett said Sunday. "That is known. But what President (George W.) Bush has shown (is) that he believes we can emphasize the diplomatic initiatives that are under way right now."
Iran had said it would allow UN nuclear experts to take environmental samples from green spaces outside the complex's ammunition production workshops, but it would not allow them to inspect military equipment.
Iranian officials also said they would closely watch the inspectors to prevent any possible theft or spying.
Iran repeatedly has denied any work on secret nuclear weapons programs, saying its nuclear activities are for peaceful energy purposes only.
Asefi said Iran and the Europeans will begin a new round of talks in Geneva later this week focusing on nuclear issues as well as political and security co-operation.
Under international pressure, Iran agreed in November to suspended uranium enrichment and all related activities for at least three months while negotiating with the European Union about economic and technological aid, thus avoiding possible UN Security Council sanctions. The IAEA agreed to police the suspension.
Asefi said Iran will resume uranium enrichment one day.
"We said from the very beginning that the suspension is a voluntary and temporary measure," he said without elaborating.
Also Sunday, Asefi said Iran had heard reports that Germany had seized an Iranian-bound shipment of four special high-voltage motors that could be used for a nuclear facility.
"We are investigating the reports," he said. "If true, it will be the same restrictions Europeans have imposed against Iran and we protest such measures."
© Copyright 2005 Associated Press