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. Iran vows enrichment freeze will be short-lived
TEHRAN (AFP) Jan 31, 2005
Iran said Monday its current freeze on uranium enrichment would be short-lived but insisted that its nuclear activities posed no risk to the region as claimed by arch-enemy the United States.

"The length of the suspension will not be very long and will be valid for the duration of the negotiations and only on the condition that the negotiations make progress," top nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani told Hamshahri newspaper.

"In the future we will most certainly resume enrichment, but as for how long the suspension will last is going to depend on many factors."

Iran, accused by Washington of trying to build an atomic bomb, has suspended uranium enrichment as a confidence-building measure during talks with the European Union but in a hardening of its stance the bloc now wants Tehran to commit itself to abandoning the process completely.

Enrichment is a key process that makes what can be fuel for nuclear reactors but also the explosive core of atomic bombs.

US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, a noted hawk in President George W. Bush's administration, said Iran's nuclear program was a major threat for Washington's allies in the Middle East.

During a trip to Bahrain on Sunday, Bolton said although Iran could not yet strike the United States "they can strike our friends and allies in the region and the broader region here".

But Iranian government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh rejected his comments, saying: "We have announced all Iran's nuclear activities are for developmental and peaceful purposes.

"We think only the ones who feel their interests are harmed by our peaceful plans see danger in these projects," Ramezanzadeh said, adding: "Our religion does not allow the use weapons of mass destruction."

Bush, who once lumped Iran in an "axis of evil" including North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, has said he could not rule out using force if Tehran failed to rein in its nuclear plans.

Asked if Iran would resume enriching uranium before the end of President Mohammad Khatami's mandate next August, Rowhani said: "Negotiations (with the should end before this date. But if they do not end we cannot wait until then."

"Our aim is to be able to continue our enrichment activities and at the same time to give the necessary guarantees to the international community that these activities are peaceful."

At a meeting in Geneva this month, the EU3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- told Iran that nothing short of full cessation and dismantling of Iran's fuel cycle efforts would provide the guarantees needed to prove the peaceful nature of the nuclear program.

But the head of Iran's Nuclear Energy Organisation Gholamreza Aghazadeh also said Tehran was concerned about state of the negotiations which have "not yet fulfilled our expectations."

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned European powers last week that they must take their nuclear negotiations with Iran seriously, otherwise Tehran would reconsider its cooperation.

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