Iran may restart activities related to uranium enrichment

Talks with European negotiators have not yielded any results.


Published: Sunday, May 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 30, 2005 at 10:57 p.m.
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran said Saturday it is likely to resume uranium enrichment-related activities within a week, a process it halted last year to build confidence in talks with European countries and avoid referral to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
Tehran's announcement came a day after talks in London with European negotiators yielded no results. France, Britain and Germany, acting on behalf of the 25-nation European Union, are seeking guarantees from Iran that it will not use its nuclear program to make weapons, as Washington suspects.
Top Iranian nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani was quoted as saying Tehran expects to restart enrichment activities - injecting uranium gas into centrifuges - at its uranium conversion facility in Isfahan.
"It's unlikely that uranium enrichment . . . which takes place in Natanz, will be resumed, but it's likely that some activities at Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility will restart next week," IRNA quoted Rowhani as saying Saturday.
The central cities of Natanz and Isfahan house the heart of Iran's nuclear program.
The Isfahan conversion facility reprocesses uranium ore concentrate into gas, which is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment.
In Vienna, Austria, a senior diplomat close to the International Atomic Energy Agency said the U.N. nuclear watchdog body had not been informed as of Saturday afternoon of Tehran's intention. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.
The Europeans want Iran to permanently abandon enrichment, a process that can produce nuclear reactor fuel and, when taken to a higher level, material for bombs. In return, it is offering Iran economic aid, technical support and backing for Tehran's efforts to join mainstream international organizations.
Washington last month agreed to support the EU effort but signaled that Iran - which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last month labeled an "outpost of tyranny" - should quickly accept it or face harsh Security Council sanctions. Iran insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and for generating electricity.
Iran says its November decision to suspend uranium enrichment-related activities was voluntary, temporary and not permanent, claiming it has a right to perform such activities under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The Islamic republic also has warned that the talks with the Europeans would collapse if they do not yield results soon. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi warned Thursday that "we will have no choice but to restart the uranium enrichment program."
Rowhani called the London talks "perhaps the last opportunity" for an agreement and acknowledged Iran and the Europeans had failed to achieve a compromise.
"The Europeans still insist on having more time to review the details of the plan (presented by Iran)," IRNA quoted him as saying.

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