Tehran to resume nuclear program

Posted in Iran | 04-May-05 | Author: David E. Sanger and Warren Hog| Source: International Herald Tribune

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi.

UNITED NATIONS, New York Iran on Tuesday told a conference reviewing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that Tehran was determined to press ahead with uranium enrichment and accused the United States and Europe of trying to keep an exclusive hold on technological advancement.

"It is unacceptable that some tend to limit the access to peaceful nuclear technology to an exclusive club of technologically advanced states under the pretext of nonproliferation," Kamal Kharrazi, the Iranian foreign minister, said from the podium of the General Assembly, where the monthlong gathering was in its second day.

Iran, he said, would pursue "all legal areas of nuclear technology, including enrichment, exclusively for peaceful purposes." He said that the terms of the treaty permitted it to do so.

In Tehran, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, said that Iran would soon resume some nuclear activities that had been suspended but indicated that the country would not restart uranium enrichment as long as talks continued with European negotiators.

France, Britain and Germany have been seeking guarantees from Iran that it will not use its nuclear program to make weapons, which the United States, pressing for more aggressive action, suspects is its goal. Enriched at a low level, uranium can fuel a power plant, but, further enriched, can be used to make nuclear bombs.

Addressing the conference Monday, Stephen Rademaker, an assistant secretary of state, described the American demands by saying that any solution "must include permanent cessation of Iran's enrichment and reprocessing efforts, as well as dismantlement of equipment facilities related to such activity."

Rademaker's statement was intended to focus the conference on loopholes in the 35-year-old treaty, which he charged both Iran and North Korea have exploited. Others among the more than 180 nations here want to direct attention at compelling declared nuclear states to step up their own disarmament, but outside developments are keeping the emphasis on noncompliance.

American officials believe that North Korea, which pulled out of the treaty and evicted inspectors two years ago, may be preparing for a test that would end debate about whether the research it conducted while still a member has been converted into a nuclear weapon program.

In Washington, there is concern that Iran may be following the same model.

Kharrazi insisted that Iran remained "eager" to provide European negotiators with the guarantees of its peaceful intent, but he harshly criticized the demands being made. They are "arbitrary and self-serving criteria and thresholds regarding proliferation-proof and proliferation-prone technologies," he said, and only serve to undermine the treaty.

"This attitude is in clear violation of the letter and spirit of the treaty and destroys the fundamental balance which exists between the rights and obligations in the treaty," he declared. He said that the treaty itself rejected these efforts in its language affirming that nothing in the measure should affect the "inalienable right" of all parties to it to produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

He said that the permanent cessation of such activity that was being demanded of Iran was not only no guarantee against the "breakout" of weapons developments, it was "a historically tested recipe for one."

He also told the delegates that they should work to get legally binding assurances from the United States and other nuclear weapons states that they would never threaten nonnuclear states with attack.

He said that countries that were not signatories to the treaty had exploited their freedom from its restrictions to build up nuclear stockpiles that posed more serious threats to world peace.

His reference was to India, Pakistan and Israel, though he mentioned only Israel by name, saying it had continually rejected bids to join the treaty and open itself up to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As part of its negotiations with the European Union over the future of Iran's nuclear program, which it insists is only for electricity production, Iran has demanded that it be allowed to install 3,000 centrifuges, which enrich uranium. Though the International Atomic Energy Agency has said it has yet to find concrete evidence of a weapons program in Iran, Rademaker expressed no doubts about what Iran had done.

"For almost two decades Iran has conducted a clandestine nuclear weapons program, aided by the illicit network of A.Q. Khan," Rademaker said, referring to the head of Pakistan's nuclear research laboratory, who was at the center of a huge black-market network in nuclear technology.

Rademaker addressed complaints that the United States was not living up to its commitments by noting that the Moscow Treaty signed with Russia three years ago required huge reductions in deployed nuclear warheads by 2012.

The dispute over what Iran should and should not be allowed to do encapsulates the challenges facing the review of the treaty, which takes place every five years.

The 184 signers insist that the central bargain of the 1970 accord allows any signer to build nuclear facilities as long as they are for peaceful purposes. The treaty gives the International Atomic Energy Agency, currently headed by Mohamed ElBaradei, the responsibility to inspect those facilities to make sure that they are not being turned to weapons production.