TEHRAN - The US-based news channel CNN has been banned from working in Iran for having mistakenly quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying his country is seeking nuclear weapons, a government official said Monday.
During CNN's simultaneous translation of a press conference by Ahmadinejad Saturday, the president was quoted as saying that "we believe all nations are allowed to have nuclear weapons" and that the West should not "deprive us to have nuclear weapons".
The president was, however, using a Farsi word that meant "technology" and not "weapons" - in line with Iran's assertion that it only wants to generate atomic energy and not build bombs as alleged by the United Sates.
"Taking into account CNN's actions contrary to professional ethics in the past years and their distortion of the president's comments during his press conference on Saturday, the activities of the CNN journalist in Tehran will end and no journalists from CNN will be authorised to come to Iran," a statement from the Iranian culture ministry said.
Iranian media said the channel had apologised to the Iranian government over the error, which came amid rapidly mounting tensions over the Islamic republic's disputed nuclear programme.
The country is facing the threat of being referred to the UN Security Council for resuming sensitive nuclear fuel research work which the West fears would give the clerical regime the know-how to build a bomb.
Iran insists such work is entirely legal given it has signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and has branded nuclear weapons "un-Islamic".
CNN does not have a permanent correspondent based in Tehran due to previous problems with Iranian authorities, notably several years ago when it broadcast images of an illegal party in Tehran where young people flouted regulations on dress and mixed with the opposite sex.
The channel's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, is presently in Iran for a short visit. But the mere fact she was granted a visa has drawn complaints from some hardline newspapers.
One newspaper also accused her of not adequately covering her head.
In April 2005, the Qatar-based Arabic language news channel Al-Jazeera was thrown out of Iran on accusations it was stirring up ethnic violence in its coverage of clashes between ethnic Arabs and security forces in southwestern Iran.