Monday, January 09, 2006

Iran Says Nuclear Research Resumed

CNN News:
As expected, Iran said it would resume its nuclear research program Monday, according to a government spokesman. "As announced, nuclear research will be resumed in Iran today in the presence of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) representatives," Gholam-Hossein Elham said. READ MORE

"Resumption of research is not subject to legal prohibitions. It was suspended voluntarily."

The announcement came a day after Iran's foreign minister said scientists would remove IAEA seals at some nuclear research and development sites and resume operations under the supervision of the agency.

The research and development facilities were not specified.

It would be the second time Iran has removed seals put in place by the IAEA. In August, the country unsealed equipment at its Isfahan plant and resumed uranium conversion activities there.

Officials have said Iran will maintain a suspension at its uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. Uranium conversion is a first step toward uranium enrichment, which could lead to the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

Iran's nuclear programs are a source of contention with the West. Iran's hard-line conservative government insists the programs are aimed at peaceful purposes, and that it has the right to restart nuclear facilities and enrich uranium for the production of nuclear energy.

Other nations, however, including the United States, fear Tehran's true goal is to produce nuclear weapons. Talks between Iran and France, Britain and Germany on the matter were halted last year; the European Union and the U.S. have threatened to bring Iran before the United Nations Security Council.

"Iran is trying to pursue nuclear weapons under the cover of a peaceful nuclear program," U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters last week. "We do not think that should be allowed to happen."

Also last week, Iran's delegation to the IAEA abruptly left Vienna without attending a meeting in which delegation members were to explain the reasons behind Tehran's planned resumption of Iran's nuclear program.

IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the meeting was supposed to be about the clarification of Iran's research and development intentions in restarting its nuclear program. Iran said last week the research program would be restarted Monday to put atomic researchers back to work.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, in a statement, acknowledged Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology, but called on Tehran to take the steps required by the IAEA to resolve issues regarding the nature of its nuclear program.

If Iran takes any further enrichment-related steps, McCormack said last week, "the international community will have to take additional measures to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions."