Iran Leader Hints at Exiting Nuke Treaty

The Associated Press
Monday, April 24, 2006; 4:22 PM

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's hard-line president said Monday he is thinking about withdrawing from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty if the U.N. atomic agency tries to prevent his country from enriching uranium.

In a rare news conference with foreign journalists, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also predicted the U.N. Security Council will not impose sanctions on Iran, which is facing a Friday deadline to halt enrichment because of suspicions it is trying to develop atomic weapons.

Ahmadinejad's government insists the nonproliferation treaty gives Iran the right to enrich uranium for fueling civilian nuclear power plants, and he has given no ground in the international faceoff.

The United States, Britain and France maintain Iran also wants enriched uranium for atomic bombs, which would violate its commitments under the treaty. Iran denies the charge, but Washington is pressing fellow members of the Security Council to impose economic sanctions.

The fiery Ahmadinejad said he was reconsidering Iran's adherence to the nonproliferation treaty, which is aimed at stopping the spread of atomic weapons while allowing peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency, a U.N. watchdog body.

"What has more than 30 years of membership in the agency given us?" he asked at the news conference, which was only the second since he took office last year at which foreign journalists have been allowed to ask questions.

"Working in the framework of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the agency is our concrete policy," he said. "(But) if we see that they are violating our rights, or they don't want to accept (our rights), well, we will reconsider."

Suspicions about Iran's intentions have grown since it was discovered in 2002 that the Tehran regime had for two decades secretly operated large-scale nuclear activities that could be used in weapons making.

The IAEA says it has since found no direct evidence of an arms program, but it also says the Iranians have not been fully forthcoming in answering questions about their nuclear activities.

After repeated attempts to resolve the issue through negotiations, the IAEA reported Iran to the Security Council for noncompliance. The council then gave Iran until Friday to suspend uranium enrichment.

Iran deepened international concerns by announcing April 11 that it had for the first time enriched uranium with 164 centrifuges _ a step toward large-scale production of nuclear fuel.

The United States and others are urging the Security Council to take a tougher stance by imposing a mandatory order for Iran to halt enrichment, a move that would raise the threat of sanctions.

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