Iran threatens UN nuclear watchdog as pressure mounts
TEHRAN (AFP) Jun 15, 2004
Iran reacted to fresh pressure from the UN nuclear watchdog Tuesday by threatening to reconsider its cooperation with inspectors trying to verify suspicions the Islamic republic is secretly developing atomic weapons.

As diplomats at the International Atomic Energy Agecy (IAEA) in Vienna mulled a tough European-drafted resolution that criticises Iran's failure to fully come clean, top regime officials here said they would not tolerate what they saw as a US-Israeli plot.

The new conservative speaker of parliament, Gholam Ali Hadad-Adel, warned the assembly may not ratify Iran's signature of the additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) allowing tougher UN inspections.

"The three European countries are demanding parliament adopt the protocol, but I say to France, Germany and Britain not to tell the Iranian parliament what to do," he told deputies.

"The Iranian parliament does not take orders from foreigners, because these orders do not reflect the interests of the Iranian people. If we consider it to be in the interests of the Iranian people we will adopt it, if not we will not," he said.

He also warned the Europeans not to "fall into the trap of the Zionists", a reference to Iran's oft-mentioned enemies in Israel and the United States.

And according to press reports, President Mohammad Khatami has also told Britain, France and Germany in writing to ease the pressure, or risk pushing Iran to consider "other alternatives".

Khatami also reportedly accused the so-called Euro-3 of aligning themselves with Iran's arch-enemy, the United States.

According to the Tehran Times newspaper, Khatami wrote that "Iran will not forego its inalienable right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes", and that "if such confrontational behaviour continues ... Iran will contemplate other alternatives."

It was not clear what Khatami, a reformist, meant by "other alternatives", although some hardliners in the regime have been calling for Iran to respond to the pressure by pulling out of the NPT altogether.

Khatami's office was not immediately available for comment.

Although the draft -- expected to be debated later in the week -- has been toned down, a top member of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Sayed Hossein Mussavian, said the text was still unacceptable.

"The changes to the draft resolution are insufficiant and are not acceptable to Iran," he told the student news agency ISNA.

Iran asserts that it is only seeking to generate nuclear power to meet future energy needs, and contends that it has completely abided by its commitments to the NPT and has cooperated with the IAEA.

Iran's compliance with a string of IAEA demands was brokered last October by the three European states, who pledged that Iran could eventually hope to receive technological assistance if it managed to quash suspicions over its nuclear activities.

But EU diplomats appear to be running out of patience as key questions over Iran's activities -- notably surrounding the discovery of highly-enriched uranium that is possibly bomb-grade -- continue to go unanswered.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said in Vienna on Monday that Iran's cooperation had so far been "less than satisfactory" and that the clerical regime needed to be "proactive and fully transparent".

Iran signed the additional protocol in December 2004, but the text still has to be ratified by parliament, the Majlis, which fell into the hands of religious right-wingers in February after most reformist candidates were barred from contesting the polls.

Even though the text has not yet been approved, Iran has nonetheless pledged to submit to the tougher and surprise IAEA inspections it prescribes. But a rejection of the text by the Majlis would spell a return to the only limited probe exacted by the NPT.

Hadad-Adel complained the draft resolution put forward by Britian, France and Germany was effectively aimed at forcing Iran to abandon all of its progress in the nuclear field, and said this was "against our interests".

"As the senior Iranian officials have said on a number of occasions, Iran does not have the intention of using nuclear technology for non-peaceful means," he stressed.