Iran Nuclear NewsIran Says It Will Break U.N. Seals Placed at...

Iran Says It Will Break U.N. Seals Placed at a Nuclear Plant


New York Times: Defying the warning of European leaders,
Iran said Monday that it was removing the seals placed by the United Nations nuclear agency at one of its nuclear sites to restart activities there. New York Times


TEHRAN – Defying the warning of European leaders, Iran said Monday that it was removing the seals placed by the United Nations nuclear agency at one of its nuclear sites to restart activities there.

European diplomats said that if Iran did go ahead and resume the nuclear activities, then they would have little choice but to ask for the agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to place the issue before the United Nations Security Council for possible political and economic sanctions.

A senior Iranian official, Ali Aghamohammadi, said technicians were going to break the seals to the uranium ore conversion plant in Isfahan on Monday afternoon in the presence of the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, who are currently in Iran, the IRNA news agency reported.

By the end of the day, however, it could not be determined whether Iran had actually broken the seals.

In Berlin, a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said at a news briefing that the German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, had warned that the decision was a miscalculation by Iran.

In a strongly worded statement, the British Foreign Office said that if Iran were to act on its threat and resume nuclear activities, negotiations between Iran and Europe would probably be halted.

Iran agreed nine months ago to freeze all its enrichment-related activities for as long as talks with Germany, France, Britain and the European Union continued. The United States maintains, and the European countries had come to agree, that Iran intends to make nuclear weapons. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.

Mr. Aghamohammadi said Iran’s decision to restart a nuclear facility was made after the European foreign ministers notified Iran in a letter that a proposal to Iran concerning incentives for it to permanently dismantle its suspected nuclear weapons program, possibly including nuclear fuel and a trade package, would be made in Paris on Aug. 30, although Iran said its deadline had been the end of July.

European diplomats said Monday that they had wanted to wait to present a proposal until after the new Iranian president is sworn in on Wednesday, and the French Foreign Ministry said in a briefing on Monday that the proposals would be presented before Sunday.

Iran says it is keeping its freeze on another, more advanced, process in the program to enrich uranium, which can lead to making nuclear fuel for power plants, or if enriched to high levels, for making nuclear weapons.

The International Atomic Energy Agency had urged Iran not to remove the agency’s seals from any nuclear equipment at Isfahan until it dispatches more inspectors and installs additional surveillance equipment. An agency spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, said Monday that the process could take a week to 10 days.

“We would want to account for every gram of nuclear material,” she said. “We would want to be certain that no material is being diverted.”

Ms. Fleming denied a statement by an Iranian government spokesman that the agency’s director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, had agreed to make the inspectors and equipment available in two days. “There’s been no such shortening of the time period the I.A.E.A. would need,” she said.

While the agency’s response to Iran was cautiously written focusing mostly on technical matters, Ms. Fleming said the agency considered Iran’s voluntary suspension of uranium activities to be “essential” in its effort to solve the riddles in Iran’s past nuclear activity. Suspending enrichment freezes a nuclear site, she said, and makes it easier to investigate. Monitoring the process would also use up the time of inspectors, who could focus on other elements of the nuclear program.

In Tehran, Mr. Aghamohammadi said the decision to resume work was made in a meeting by Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; the departing president, Mohammad Khatami; the president-elect, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; and other senior leaders.

At the conversion plant in Isfahan, the uranium ore known as yellowcake is turned into UF6, or uranium hexafluoride gas, which can later be fed into centrifuges to be enriched.

Mr. Aghamohammadi said Monday that the UF6 gas produced at the plant in Isfahan would be stored under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The products made of UF6 will be given to a third country in return for yellowcake, he added.

“We will keep the suspension on enrichment and we hope we can continue our negotiations with Europe,” Mr. Aghamohammadi said.

“We hope our decision would be interpreted with good will,” he said, adding that the country’s national pride had been hurt after its nuclear work was stopped under pressure for two years.

Mark Landler contributed reporting from Berlin for this article, and Graham Bowley from London.

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