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. Iran moves to ratify protocol but vows to resume nuclear work
TEHRAN (AFP) May 08, 2005
Iran said Sunday it was preparing a bill to ratify a key nuclear protocol but also stood firm on its intention to resume sensitive nuclear fuel work despite intense international pressure.

The government is planning to submit a bill to parliament to ratify an additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that allows tougher international control of Iran's nuclear activities.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters that the bill would be approved by the government and then submitted to parliament but he gave no timetable.

Iran, accused by the United States of trying to develop weapons under the cover of a nuclear energy programme, signed the additional protocol in December 2003 to allow tougher international inspections of its activities.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has however insisted that Iran's parliament also ratify the protocol.

But defying international demands, Asefi reiterated that Iran would resume sensitive work on the nuclear fuel process.

"The decision has been taken to start some of our activities" at Iran's uranium conversion facility in Isfahan, he said, but added: "We have not decided what we will start or when."

Iran agreed in November last year to suspend its fuel cycle work -- the focus of international fears the country may be seeking the bomb -- and open talks with Britain, France and Germany.

But the clerical regime has since voiced frustration over the negotiations, in which the EU-3 are offering a package of incentives in return for "objective guarantees" from Iran that it will not develop weapons.

And Iran has repeatedly said it will resume the uranium enrichment work if an agreement is not reached with the European Union.

Uranium conversion is a process that turns raw "yellowcake" into the feed gas that can then be refined in centrifuges in the enrichment process -- which in turn can make fuel for nuclear reactors, or constitute the explosive core of atomic bombs.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi on Saturday warned that Iran might break off the negotiations with the European Union.

"We told the Europeans that, if the negotiations did not bear the expected results, their continuation was useless," Kharazi was quoted as saying by state television.

The Europeans have meanwhile warned that if there is no deal, they would support the idea of Iran's nuclear dossier being sent to the UN Security Council which could impose sanctions.

The last round of talks between Iranian and EU negotiators was held in London last month but no new negotiations have been arranged.

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