AFP: Iran warned Sunday it would resume sensitive nuclear work within 24 hours if the European Union failed to submit proposals aimed at ending a long-running crisis over its nuclear programme. The move has raised the stakes in the nuclear standoff and risks seeing Iran hauled before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, a persistent demand
of the United States which accuses Iran of seeking atomic weapons. AFP
by Siavosh Ghazi and Farhad Pouladi
TEHRAN – Iran warned Sunday it would resume sensitive nuclear work within 24 hours if the European Union failed to submit proposals aimed at ending a long-running crisis over its nuclear programme.
The move has raised the stakes in the nuclear standoff and risks seeing Iran hauled before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, a persistent demand of the United States which accuses Iran of seeking atomic weapons.
Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Iran would inform the UN nuclear watchdog on Sunday or Monday of the resumption of some uranium conversion work, a key stage in the nuclear fuel cycle.
“The time limit (on the suspension of such activities) has passed and public opinion cannot wait any longer,” Asefi said.
The conversion process, carried out in Iran at a facility in the central city of Isfahan, changes uranium ore into the uranium gas that is the feedstock for enrichment.
Iran agreed in November to suspend uranium enrichment activities, a process that makes fuel for civilian nuclear power plants but can also be the explosive core of atom bombs, during negotiations with the Europeans.
The so-called EU-3 of Britain, France and Germany is preparing a package of trade, technology and security incentives in return for Iran guaranteeing its nuclear programme is peaceful.
“If the Europeans submit their proposals by 5 pm (1230 GMT) we will examine them, if not we will resume some of our activities in Isfahan tomorrow,” nuclear negotiator Ali Agha Mohammadi told AFP.
But he added: “Our position is that we want to pursue the negotiations with the Europeans.”
Asefi said there was a Monday deadline for the EU offer, something denied by the Europeans who have previously said they intended to submit the proposals after hardline president Mahmood Ahmadinejad takes office on August 3.
“We have had reports that the proposals were empty but wrapped up in a pretty package,” Asefi said.
Tehran insists it has the right to enrichment under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the issue has been one of the chief stumbling blocks in the process with the Europeans.
And outgoing reformist President Mohammad Khatami said last week that Iran would resume enrichment activities no matter what the Europeans propose although “we prefer to do it with their agreement.”
Washington accuses its arch enemy of seeking nuclear weapons, a charge vehemently denied by the Islamic republic, and the negotiation process with the EU is aimed at avoiding Tehran being brought before the Security Council.
“It is barely acceptable pressure that leads us to express our surprise and our concern,” one European diplomat told AFP in Paris of the latest Iranian threats.
The EU-3 is “warning about the consequences of breaking the suspension and that this will lead to the matter being taken to the UN Security Council,” another diplomat told AFP in Vienna, the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Asefi said international inspectors currently in Iran would be taken to the Isfahan facility where the IAEA seals would be “removed in the presence of the inspectors and the work will resume.”
On Saturday, Iran said EU-3 ambassadors had sent a message to the foreign ministry informing Tehran that it would make the offer by August 7, to be followed up by an Iran-EU committee meeting on August 30 in Paris and then a foreign ministers’ meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September.
Ahmadinejad is due to address the assembly on what is expected to be his first visit abroad.