Mon, Feb 06, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Iran ends voluntary relations with IAEA, revisits Russia offer

AP , TEHRAN

Iran has ended all voluntary cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said yesterday.

The president had ordered the move a day before in response to the IAEA referring Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program. The action was required under a law passed last year.

"We have ended all the voluntary cooperation we have been extending to the IAEA in the past two-and-a-half to three years, on the basis of the president's order," Mottaki said. "We do not have any obligation toward the additional protocol [anymore]."

The announcement means Iran has resumed uranium enrichment and will no longer allow snap IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities, both voluntary measures it had allowed in recent years in a goodwill gesture to build trust under a protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Iran has repeatedly stressed that it would continue to honor its commitments under the treaty, but that it has the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program.

"Adoption of the policy of resistance doesn't mean we are on non-speaking terms or noncooperative," Mottaki said. "Yesterday we had two options. One was the option of resistance and the other was surrender. We chose resistance."

While Iran was dismissive of the IAEA action, it also indicated it was open to negotiations and reversed its earlier rejection of a Moscow proposal that Iran shift its plan for large-scale enrichment of uranium to Russian territory. The plan is intended to allay world suspicions that Iran might use the process to develop a nuclear bomb.

Uranium enriched to a low degree is used as fuel for nuclear reactors. But highly enriched uranium is suitable for making atomic bombs.

"The situation has changed. Still, we will attend talks with Russia on Feb. 16," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

His comments came a day after Javad Vaeidi, deputy head of Iran's powerful National Security Council, said there was "no adequate reason to pursue the Russian plan."

It was not clear if the change of course represented a major shift in Iran's strategy in the crisis over its nuclear activities. Asefi said "the door for negotiations is still open" over Iran's nuclear program.

"We don't fear the Security Council. It's not the end of the world," he added.

Mottaki said Iran's cooperation was now limited only to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and not beyond that.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also continued his defiance against the move by the IAEA for its decision to report Iran to the Security Council.

"You [the West] can't do a thing. The era of coercion and domination has ended," Ahmadinejad was quoted by the official Islamic Republic News Agency as saying.

"Issue as many resolutions like this as you want and make yourself happy. You can't prevent the progress of the Iranian nation," he said.

Iranian lawmakers yesterday also agreed to urgently debate a bill that would put restrictions on the sale of unnecessary US goods sold in the country, a response to US pressure over the matter.

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