Iran threatens pullout from nuclear pact after IAEA deadline
BERLIN (AFP) Sep 13, 2003
Iran's ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog has warned in a press interview that Tehran could follow North Korea and pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if the dispute over its nuclear programme continued at the Vienna-based body.

Iran could "halt all cooperation" with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and "maybe withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty", Ali Akbar Salehi threatened in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine to hit news-stands on Monday.

"We will not allow yourselves to be treated without due respect... Neither we will be pressured by Europe," Salehi insisted.

The Iranian delegation, led by Salehi, walked out of Friday's IAEA meeting in Vienna after Tehran was given until October 31 to prove it is not running a secret nuclear weapons programme.

The resolution, pushed by the United States, was supported by key nations Britain, France and Germany.

The motion said it was "essential and urgent" for Tehran to "remedy all failures" in compliance reported by the agency since it began inspections in February, after Iran was revealed to have more nuclear facilities than previously thought.

The resolution also called on Tehran to suspend its uranium enrichment programme, reveal whether it was enriching uranium to weapons-grade level and accept an additional protocol to the NPT which would allow for unannounced spot checks.

Conservative voices in Iran immediately called on the country's clerical leadership not to bow to the IAEA's requests and to follow the path of North Korea and pull out of the NPT.

The ultimatum is counter-productive, Salehi said, while predicting a "quick and peaceful" solution to the dispute.

"The worst will not occur," he insisted.

"We are working as hard as we can to convince (Iran's clerical leadership) that ratifying the additional protocol is the right path to take, but not at any price," Salehi said.

North Korea pulled out of the NPT in January after it revived its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, marking the first time any country has withdrawn from a multilateral arms control treaty.