Iran Backtracks on Nuclear Plan
Iran said it hoped to resume work at a uranium conversion plant by early next week, backtracking from an earlier plan to restart Wednesday but still rejecting Western appeals to keep the project suspended.
The European Union has warned Iran that any resumption of nuclear fuel activities would mean an end to two years of talks on Iran’s atomic ambitions. Tehran says it wants only to generate electricity, but the West suspects that it aims to make nuclear bombs.
If Iran resumes work and the EU declares the talks over, the EU would then back U.S. calls to start a process that could result in United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran.
Chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani said he had sent a letter to the EU complaining that the bloc was making “unacceptable threats.”
“We hope to restart work by the beginning of next week when preparations are complete,” he told state television, speaking on the day that conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office.
Rowhani said that he would probably not remain Iran’s top negotiator under Ahmadinejad, but that his successor would not change Iran’s nuclear policies.
Iranian officials have said the decision to resume nuclear fuel work was irreversible, but would be carried out under the supervision of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
The IAEA said it would take at least a week to send surveillance equipment from its headquarters in Vienna and install it in the central city of Esfahan, where Iran hopes to convert uranium ore into gas for centrifuges.
Centrifuges then enrich the uranium by spinning it at supersonic speed.
Britain, France and Germany planned to offer Iran a package of political and economic incentives to freeze its nuclear fuel activities indefinitely.
Iran wants the EU to recognize the nation’s right to enrich uranium, something the bloc has refused to do.