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. Defiant Iran rejects UN nuclear calls, threatens to block checks
TEHRAN (AFP) Sep 19, 2004
A defiant Iran Sunday rejected a resolution by the UN atomic watchdog calling for a halt to sensitive nuclear work and threatened to block tough inspections if the issue was referred to the Security Council.

"Iran will not accept any obligations concerning the suspension of enrichment," Iran's top nuclear official Hassan Rowhani said after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called for a halt to uranium enrichment-related activities.

The IAEA resolution adopted in Vienna Saturday also set a November 25 deadline for a full review of Tehran's nuclear activities.

Although Rowhani appeared to reject the resolution, he said Iran could accept a suspension "through negotiations" and if it was a "voluntary decision".

But he also warned that the Islamic republic would halt its application of a key safeguards treaty if the nuclear dossier was referred to the UN Security Council, as sought by the United States.

The Islamic regime insists its nuclear programme is strictly aimed at generating electricity, despite suspicions particularly in the United States it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran signed the additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) last December, but parliament has yet to ratify it. The text obliges Iran to accept tougher inspections, including short-notice visits to even undeclared facilities.

"We are committed to the NPT... and will continue to voluntarily apply the additional protocol. But we will stop applying the additional protocol if the case is sent to the Security Council," Rowhani warned.

Washington -- which once described Iran as part of an "axis of evil" -- said Tehran should respond to the IAEA demands.

"I think that the IAEA board of governors sent a very clear message that Iran must cease its pursuit of nuclear weapons and answer questions which the board has raised and suspend its enrichment activity," US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told reporters in Vienna.

"Iran should follow the obligations and cooperate fully with the IAEA. The clock is ticking down now on Iran to the next meeting" of the IAEA board in November, he said.

But Rowhani, head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said Iran's hardline parliament could also push for a pull-out from the NPT if the Security Council moved to sanction the country.

Iran suspended enrichment in October 2003 as a confidence-building measure but has continued support activities such as building the centrifuges that refine the uranium.

It has also caused alarm by saying that it would be carrying out the first stage of the nuclear fuel cycle, making the uranium gas that is the feed for centrifuges.

Fuel cycle work is permitted under the NPT, but Iran has been under pressure to stop because the process of enriching uranium can used to produce fuel for a nuclear reactor or the core of a nuclear bomb.

Rowhani said fuel cycle work at a Uranium Conversion Facility in the central city of Isfahan was going ahead -- as was the construction of a heavy water reactor at Arak and enrichment preparations at Natanz.

"We have reached the stage where we can produce nuclear fuel... People should know that the suspension is not a halt to our activities. In one year we have obtained everything we wanted," he said.

Rowhani also accused Europe's "big three" which were behind Saturday's resolution -- Britain, France and Germany -- of breaking an accord on Iran's cooperation struck here in October 2003.

"The three Europeans have violated the terms of the accord regarding enrichment because the suspension of enrichment was voluntary," he said, without saying if Tehran had abandoned the deal.

"We have difficult days ahead of us," Rowhani commented.

The Iranian parliament also adopted a harsh tone, saying it would not ratify the additional protocol and and describing the IAEA move as "illegal".

"The continued defiance of principles by the IAEA's board of governors leaves no room for us to ratify the additional protocol," said a statement read out in parliament.

"We the deputies urge the government to seriously follow up with the completion of the fuel cycle programme for nuclear plants," it said.

The hardline and influential Kayhan daily called for Iran to quit the NPT if the IAEA does not close the case in November. It also accused Iranian officials of "incompetence and naivety" in handling the nuclear dossier.

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