Iran carries out threat to resume building nuclear equipment

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The Independent Online

Senior officials from Britain, France and Germany are to hold urgent talks with Iran in a European capital after Tehran resumed building and installing equipment that can be used to build a nuclear weapon.

Senior officials from Britain, France and Germany are to hold urgent talks with Iran in a European capital after Tehran resumed building and installing equipment that can be used to build a nuclear weapon.

"We are back to where we were six months ago," a Foreign Office official said, after Iran carried out a threat to resume manufacture and assembly of uranium enrichment centrifuges.

According to diplomats, Iranian officials several weeks ago broke seals placed on the equipment by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It then resumed building and testing the centrifuges, which can be used to make fissile material for a nuclear weapon.

Iran was angered by a tough resolution passed by the IAEA in June, and threatened to resume uranium enrichment after being rebuked for failing to come clean on its suspected weapons programme.

But the European-sponsored resolution refrained from reporting Iran to the UN Security Council, as the Americans had wished. Iran now risks pushing Britain into the US camp.

Yet Britain, Germany and France agreed yesterday that coaxing Iran to co-operate with the West was still the best policy. "Discussions are ongoing, we still firmly believe that this is the right way to achieve our goal," the Foreign Office said.

The talks later this week would be at a more senior level than previously, but not at foreign minister level, in a sign that diplomats are anxious to avoid the impression of a crisis.

Despite breaking the IAEA seals, diplomats said Iran was still respecting its pledge to the Europeans last October not to resume nuclear enrichment.

Iran maintains that its nuclear programme is purely for civilian purposes.

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