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. Iran nuclear standoff: four years of rising tension
TEHRAN, Aug 27 (AFP) Aug 27, 2006
A timeline of the crisis over Iran's nuclear programme:


January: US President George W. Bush labels Iran, along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, as part of an "axis of evil".

August: An exiled Iranian opposition group says the country is building secret underground nuclear facilities, notably at Natanz in central Iran.

September: The United States, which has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since 1979, seeks to dissuade Russia from helping the country build nuclear power plants.

December: Iran, which is a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), agrees to inspections of its sites, including Natanz, by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).


February: President Mohammad Khatami says uranium deposits have been discovered in Iran and Tehran is building two factories to convert the ore into nuclear power station fuel.

August: A confidential UN report reveals Iran has developed two kinds of enriched uranium not needed for peaceful energy production.

September: Tehran comes under pressure to sign an additional NPT protocol under which unannounced checks could be carried out on its nuclear sites.

October: Iran agrees in principle to sign the additional protocol.

November: An internal IAEA report states: "At the moment, there is no proof that Iran is creating nuclear weapons," a conclusion the United States dismisses.

December: Iran signs an additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty allowing unannounced inspections of nuclear sites.


February: The disgraced head of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, Abdul Qadeer Khan, is reported to have helped Iran obtain equipment for enriching uranium in the 1990s.

October: Iran tests a new medium-range missile which could easily reach Israel. The Jewish state is widely believed to have nuclear weapons, and is not a signatory of the NPT.

September: Tehran resumes work on enriching uranium.

November: Iran agrees to suspend enrichment during talks with Britain, France and Germany. The IAEA places seals on several of Iran's nuclear facilities.


June: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hardline populist, is elected president of Iran. Shortly after he takes office, the country resumes uranium work.

August: 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.

-- Tehran rejects an EU offer of a broad package of incentives aimed at ending the standoff. Iran resumes uranium conversion work at Isfahan and later removes IAEA seals.

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


January: Iran announces the resumption of nuclear research activities and removes some of the IAEA seals on its plants. UN chief Kofi Annan urges Tehran to return to the negotiating table.

March: The UN Security Council gives Iran until April 28 to suspend enrichment, but the deadline passes without any change.

April: Iran engages in military maneuvers in the Gulf, including the testing of new missiles which could be used to block the oil route through the Strait of Hormuz. World oil prices jump on the news.

-- 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. Ahmadinejad says Iran will "cut off the hand of any aggressor".

May 31: the United States makes a major policy shift, offering talks on condition that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment.

A week later the Security Council, plus Germany, presents a formal offer offering Iran a variety of incentives including talks if it agrees to suspend enrichment work.

July 31: A new Security Council resolution gives Iran a month to freeze its enrichment activity or face sanctions.

August 21: Iran says it is "no longer possible" to suspend enrichment and announces plans to start operations at its heavy water plant in Arak which will feed a nuclear reactor under construction.

August 22: Responding to the incentive package, Iran calls for talks without saying whether it would freeze enrichment work.

August 23: Washington says Iran's response "falls short" of a UN demand that Tehran halt its uranium enrichment activities.

August 26: Ahmadinejad defiantly inaugurates a plant to produce heavy water for use in a new research reactor.

August 27: The Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation says Tehran is planning to build a new light water reactor to produce electricity.

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