Nuclear Inspections Are Curbed by Iran

By Ali Akbar Dareini
Associated Press
Monday, February 6, 2006

TEHRAN, Feb. 5 -- Iran ended voluntary cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency on Sunday, saying it would start uranium enrichment and bar surprise inspections of its facilities after being reported to the U.N. Security Council over fears it is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran left open the possibility of further negotiations about its nuclear program and, in an apparent softening of its position, said it was willing to discuss Moscow's proposal to shift large-scale enrichment operations to Russian territory in an effort to allay suspicions.

A day earlier, an Iranian official at the IAEA meeting in Vienna said the Russian proposal was "dead." The comment was made after the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors voted to report Iran to the council, which can impose economic and political sanctions.

"The door for negotiations is still open," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Sunday.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the West "can't do a thing" to stop Iran's progress.

"The era of coercion and domination has ended," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency. "Issue as many resolutions like this as you want and make yourself happy. You can't prevent the progress of the Iranian nation.

"In the name of the IAEA, they want to visit all our nuclear facilities and learn our defense capabilities, but we won't allow them to do this."

Enriched to a low degree, uranium can be used for nuclear reactors, while highly enriched uranium is suitable for warheads. Iran says it wants only to generate electricity, but the United States and some allies say Tehran is trying to build a weapon.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Sunday that Iran had ended all voluntary cooperation with the IAEA. The action, ordered by Ahmadinejad, was required by a law passed last year.

The announcement means Iran has resumed uranium enrichment and will not allow unannounced IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities, a voluntary measure it allowed in recent years to build trust under a protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Iran repeatedly has stressed that it will continue to honor its commitments under the treaty but that it has the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program.

The IAEA resolution stipulates that the agency's director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, should "report to the Security Council" the steps Iran needs to take to dispel suspicions about its nuclear ambitions.

Among these steps, Iran must again freeze uranium enrichment, consider stopping construction of a heavy-water reactor that could be a source of plutonium, ratify the agreement allowing the IAEA greater inspection authority and give the agency more power to investigate Iran's nuclear program.

Tension escalated last month after Iran removed U.N. seals and resumed nuclear research, including in the field of small-scale uranium enrichment.

That followed months of talks between Iran and Britain, Germany and France, negotiating on behalf of the 25-nation European Union.

Asefi, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Iranian diplomats would attend talks in Moscow Feb. 16 concerning Russia's enrichment proposal.

"The proposal has to conform itself with the new circumstances," Asefi said. "If the Russian proposal makes itself compatible with the new conditions, it can be negotiated."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company