Iran 'will resume nuclear programme' if rebuked by watchdog

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The Independent Online

Iran threatened to break off co-operation with European countries yesterday and to resume uranium enrichment for its suspected nuclear weapons programme if the UN nuclear watchdog rebukes Tehran for failing to work with them.

Iran threatened to break off co-operation with European countries yesterday and to resume uranium enrichment for its suspected nuclear weapons programme if the UN nuclear watchdog rebukes Tehran for failing to work with them.

The governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is poised to vote on a resolution that "deplores" Iran's failure to come clean on its nuclear programme. But the resolution, which could be adopted today or tomorrow, does not refer Iran to the UN Security Council for punishment.

Iran has been pressing for the draft resolution to be watered down since Monday, when the IAEA director-general, Mohamed ElBaradei, said Iran's compliance had been "less than satisfactory".

President Mohammad Khatami intervened in the debate in Tehran yesterday, saying: "With the ongoing trend, we have no moral commitment any more to suspend uranium enrichment. If the draft resolution proposed by the European countries is approved by the IAEA, Iran will reject it.

"If Europe has no commitment toward Iran, then Iran will not have a commitment toward Europe. We assume they are not respecting their commitments."

Kenneth Brill, the American ambassador to the IAEA, accused the Iranians of bullying the UN. "What we're seeing is intimidation by the government of Iran and its delegation here. People who are trying to produce electricity for light bulbs don't engage in this kind of behaviour." He was referring to widespread Western suspicions that Iran was developing nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian programme.

But other Western diplomats played down the significance of Mr Khatami's statement, saying it was part of the "usual brinkmanship" witnessed at each meeting of the 35-member board when it deals with Iran. Mr Khatami again insisted Iran was not building a nuclear weapon.

The draft resolution was drawn up by Britain, France and Germany, the countries that negotiated a breakthrough arrangement with Iran last October, in which they agreed to help Tehran obtain advanced nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. In return, Iran suspended uranium enrichment last year and stopped building centrifuges. It also agreed to accept a protocol permitting snap inspections of its plants and facilities.

"We want to let the Iranians know that we maintain concerns that they are not co- operating to the extent they signed up to," a British diplomat said. The Iranians "must co-operate fully and in timely fashion with the IAEA. If the IAEA is satisfied, we are."

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