Iran resumes nuclear research

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Iran resumed full atomic fuel research today, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced, adding that "the research will involve small-scale enrichment of uranium, usable in power plants or weapons."

"There is a difference between research and producing nuclear fuel ... The production of nuclear fuel is still under suspension," said Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation.

Location of Iran

The United States has said that any enrichment of uranium would be a "serious escalation." A White House spokesman also stated that Iran risks referral to the UN's Security Council, which could impose sanctions, if it pursues its current nuclear course.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the conflict with Iran would need to be resolved through diplomatic means and that "military action is not on our agenda."

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, told the 35-nation governing board that "Iran intended to carry out limited uranium enrichment at its Natanz facility, where it broke UN seals as IAEA inspectors watched."

"Iran plans to install a small-scale gas ultracentrifuge cascade in its pilot fuel enrichment plant at Natanz," said a Western diplomat, reading from ElBaradei's report.

European diplomats have said that they will hold an emergency IAEA meeting to consider referring Tehran to the UN for further action and or sanctions. The United States said "this now looks inevitable."

Tehran denies wanting nuclear technology for anything but civilian energy programs to satisify the countries "booming" demand for electricity.

Western powers disregard Iran's claim and say that "Iran is to refrain from any work that could help it develop atomic weapons." The EU said Iran's latest action was "eroding international confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear program".

In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that by removing the seals of its atomic plants, Tehran had "crossed a line". Steinmeier said "that the Iranians knew they would face consequences as a result of their action". He also added that he hopes Tehran would return to a "path of reason".

Today, China also urged Tehran to continue talks with the EU trio, with foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan saying "all parties should show restraint and make efforts to build mutual trust".

Iranian news network Khabar reported that the Iranian parliament backed the decision by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to resume the research work, terming it a "source of national pride".

The White House said that if Iran continues on its current nuclear course, it will leave the international community no choice but to refer Tehran to the UN Security Council for possible actions.