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. Iran nuclear standoff: four years of rising tension
TEHRAN, April 26 (AFP) Apr 26, 2006
The United Nations is due on Friday to report on Iran's nuclear programme, amid pressure from the United States and other countries for tough action against what they see as a plan to produce nuclear weapons.

The following is a chronology of the crisis:

Dec 2002: US satellite photographs reveal the existence of active nuclear sites in Iran.

The country, which is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), agrees that the sites can be inspected by the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). However the NPT provides for such checks to be announced in advance.

July 2003: UN inspectors say they have found traces of enriched uranium at Iran's Natanz facility. Tehran comes under pressure to agree to an additional NPT protocol under which no-warning checks could be carried out on its nuclear plants.

December: The Iranian government, which insists that its project has purely civilian uses, signs the additional protocol to allow spot checks in principle.

August 2004: Iran successfully tests a new version of its Shahab-3 medium range missile. It could easily attain Israel, which is widely believed to also have nuclear missiles.

November: After resuming uranium enrichment activities in July, Iran agrees to suspend them pending talks, which open in the same month with a team from Britain, France and Germany. The IAEA places seals on several nuclear facilities in Iran.

June 2005: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hardline populist, is elected president. He takes over in August. Only days after his accession, Iran resumes uranium work.

Also in August, US President George W. Bush makes the first of several statements in which he refuses to rule out the use of force to make Iran give up its nuclear programme.

November 2005: Russia presents a plan, agreed to by the United States, that would allow Iran to continue uranium enrichment but on Russian soil. Talks take place, but they fail early in 2006.

-- 2006 --

January 2006: Iran announces the resumption of nuclear research activities, and removes some of the IAEA seals on its plants.

February: Iran tells the IAEA that it is resuming full-scale uranium enrichment. UN chief Kofi Annan urges Tehran to return to the negotiating table.

March 29: The Security Council gives Iran 30 days -- until April 28 -- to suspend enrichment. Tehran refuses.

April 3: Iran begins military maneuvers in Gulf, including the testing of new missiles which could be used to block the oil routes through the Straits of Hormuz. World oil prices jump by almost two dollars on the news.

April 10: Reports in two US papers say that the United States is planning military attacks on Iran's atomic facilities, which could involve the use of nuclear weapons.

April 18: Ahmadinejad says Iran will "cut off the hand of any aggressor".

April 25: Iranian leaders refuse to rule out using oil as a weapon if the UN Security Council decides on sanctions over the nuclear issue. Oil prices continue at record highs.

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