Iran Nuclear NewsIran says it won't halt uranium enrichment

Iran says it won’t halt uranium enrichment

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AP: Iran said Saturday it will never agree to permanently stop making nuclear fuel and warned that any attempt to haul it before the Security Council for possible sanctions would lead to more instability in the Middle East. Any effort by Washington to bring Tehran’s suspended uranium enrichment program under Security Council scrutiny is a dangerous path, warned Hasan Rowhani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator. The Associated Press

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI

TEHRAN — Iran said Saturday it will never agree to permanently stop making nuclear fuel and warned that any attempt to haul it before the Security Council for possible sanctions would lead to more instability in the Middle East.

Any effort by Washington to bring Tehran’s suspended uranium enrichment program under Security Council scrutiny is a dangerous path, warned Hasan Rowhani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator.

Rowhani, speaking during a two-day international conference on nuclear technology, also confirmed that Iran was building a tunnel next to a nuclear facility in Isfahan without first informing the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.

A diplomat familiar with Iran’s dossier said this week that parts of the concrete tunnel could run as deep as a half-mile underground and could withstand the severest of air attacks.

“Constructing a tunnel is not a nuclear activity,” Rowhani said. “It’s not clear for us if we had to inform the IAEA of the tunnel construction at all.”

Rowhani said the tunnel, which is under a mountain, will be used to store unspecified equipment. Asked if the tunnel was meant to protect nuclear equipment against airstrikes, he added: “Airstrikes won’t be able to do anything against it.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday had asked the IAEA to investigate reports about the tunnel. She won tentative support Saturday from Russia’s Foreign Ministry, which said the nuclear agency should clear up concerns about the tunnel “in the process of routine IAEA monitoring activity.”

Washington has accused Tehran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to build a nuclear bomb. Iran says the program is geared toward generating electricity.

Last month, President Bush said fears that Washington was preparing an attack were “ridiculous,” but he nonetheless said “all options are on the table.”

Iran will halt negotiations and resume making nuclear fuel “without any hesitation,” Rowhani said, if European negotiators insist Iran turn its temporary suspension into a permanent halt.

Iran suspended its uranium enrichment activities last year to create confidence in its negotiations and avoid Security Council referral. But Tehran says maintaining the voluntary freeze depends on progress in ongoing talks with Britain, Germany and France, who are negotiating on behalf of the European Union.

Rowhani said referring Iran to the Security Council would only make things worse.

“Americans and Europeans will be the first to lose in that case,” he told more than 50 nuclear scientists and experts attending the Tehran conference. “It will cause problems for regional energy and for the European economy. And it will cause additional problems for America.”

The EU wants to get an Iranian commitment to scrap enrichment plans in exchange for economic aid, technical support and backing for Tehran’s efforts to join mainstream international organizations.

Rowhani said Iran has already achieved proficiency in the full range of activities involved in enriching uranium — for nuclear fuel or weapons. He also suggested the negotiations will fail if EU negotiators succumb to U.S. pressure for a harder line, saying “if there is no U.S. pressure, we will reach a compromise with Europeans in the near future.”

Bush has backed European efforts, but documents circulated among IAEA board members last week indicated Washington would try to pressure Tehran further by the next agency board meeting in June of the European talks fail.

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