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. UN watchdog calls on Iran to halt nuclear fuel work
VIENNA (AFP) Aug 11, 2005
The UN's atomic watchdog Thursday called on Iran to halt nuclear fuel work and offered the prospect of more talks if it complies, adopting an EU proposal aimed at easing a tense international standoff.

In a resolution approved without a vote, the 35-nation board of governors said Tehran should stop nuclear fuel cycle work that has raised Western fears it may be trying to develop an atomic weapons program, a charge it denies.

It came on the third day of talks at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, and a day after Tehran had raised the stakes in the dispute by removing IAEA seals on a uranium conversion facility.

Gregory Schulte, the US ambassador to the IAEA, said the resolution "shows the international community is united in its determination that Iran move off the dangerous course it is on."

Washington had wanted Iran to be referred to the UN Security Council, which can impose sanctions.

Iran, for its part, promised to continue working with the agency but also insisted it would, one day, become a nuclear fuel producer.

"We will continue to work with the agency," Tehran's representative Cyrus Nasseri told the meeting here.

He went on: "Iran will not bend. Iran will be a nuclear fuel producer and supplier within a decade."

Iran earlier warned that an accord with the European Union over its nuclear program would become void if the IAEA adopted the EU resolution.

Mohammad Saidi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said in Vienna that the text was "unacceptable."

Iran signed the accord with the EU last November, under which it agreed to suspend uranium conversion and enrichment fuel cycle work for the duration of negotiations aimed at winning guarantees that its program is purely peaceful, as Tehran maintains.

The plant at Isfahan where Iranian officials removed the seals carries out the first step in making enriched uranium that can be fuel for power reactors, but can also serve as the raw material for atom bombs.

With the seals removed, the facility is now fully operational.

According to the resolution, Iran is urged "to reestablish full suspension of all enrichment-related activities including the production of feed material, including through tests of production at the uranium conversion facility."

Encouraged by Iran, non-aligned nations at the IAEA had opposed the draft resolution and forced a half-hour delay in Thursday's formal board session as intense, closed-door negotiations continued.

In its statement to the board, the non-aligned movement stressed that "all problems should be resolved through dialogue and peaceful means, and in this regard calls on EU-3 and Iran to continue with their dialogue with the view to achieving a mutually long-term agreement in the mandate of the IAEA."

It also urged the international community to "clearly distinguish between confidence-building measures and safeguard obligations" in order to avoid the IAEA being "obliged to enforce voluntary commitments of member states."

Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) countries have the right to make nuclear fuel for peaceful energy programs, and Iran points out that its suspension of such work since November was a voluntary gesture.

Analysts suggest Washington might find it hard to garner broad support for sanctions if Iran was taken to the Security Council, with Europe, Russia and China anxious to avoid jeopardizing their access to the country's oil.

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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