Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Telegraph | News | Secret Atomic Summit Thursday in Paris

Telegraph | News | Iran starts atom tests in defiance of EU deal: "Iran starts atom tests in defiance of EU deal
By Anton La Guardia, Diplomatic Editor
(Filed: 27/07/2004)


Iran has broken the seals on nuclear equipment monitored by United Nations inspectors and is once again building and testing machines that could make fissile material for nuclear weapons.



Teheran's move, revealed to The Daily Telegraph yesterday by western sources, breaks a deal with European countries under which Iran suspended "all uranium enrichment activity".

It will also exacerbate fears that the regional power is determined to make an atomic bomb within a few years.

Enrichment is the most controversial part of Iran's "peaceful" nuclear programme because the same technology used to make low-enriched uranium to fuel nuclear reactors can be used to refine material for bombs.

America has in recent weeks renewed its call for Iran to be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

However, diplomats said senior officials from the "EU-3" - Britain, France and Germany - would try to coax Teheran back to the path of co-operation at a secret meeting in Paris on Thursday.

Their chances of success seem slim, however, because Teheran now appears to have calculated that America is paralysed by the presidential election campaign and that Europe is too divided to exert real pressure.

Western sources said Iranian officials last month reclaimed equipment for uranium enrichment centrifuges sealed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The centrifuges separate the fissile isotope U235.

In what may be a further escalation, some western sources said Iran was carrying out its threat to begin producing uranium hexafluoride, the gas fed into the centrifuges, but the claim could not be corroborated last night.

Under a deal reached with the EU-3 in October, Iran agreed to come clean about its nuclear programme and announced it would suspend "temporarily" all uranium enrichment as a confidence-building measure.

However, Iran interpreted this to mean only that it would not introduce gas into the centrifuges while remaining free to build and test them.

Under a deal in February, the EU-3 closed this loophole when Iran accepted a wider definition of "suspension" - and it is this "Brussels agreement" which has collapsed.

Angered by the IAEA's condemnation last month of repeated failures to reveal all about its nuclear programme, Hassan Rowhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, wrote to the EU-3 saying his country would resume manufacture, assembly and testing of centrifuges.

Iran argues that its nuclear programme is designed solely to generate electricity for civilian use.

It argues that it is entitled to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and insists that the suspension deal was a voluntary agreement that could be revoked.

America believes that a succession of reports by IAEA inspectors "revealing that Iran [has lied] systematically for 18 years and has yet to answer many troubling questions about its activities" provide ample evidence that Teheran has violated the treaty.

Inspectors have found that Iran made small quantities of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium.

Teheran has yet to explain the origin of highly-enriched uranium "contamination" detected at several sites.

Nor has it revealed the extent of its more sophisticated "P2" centrifuge programme that only came to light this year, with the unravelling of the "nuclear supermarket" operated by the disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist, AQ Khan.

British officials say they have no illusions about Iran's intentions, but have hitherto advocated patient diplomacy.

They want to allow inspectors to keep working to "box in" the Iranians to the point where they either give up nuclear weapons ambitions or commit such a blatant violation that the West can win international support for sanctions.

"Iran has resumed research and testing, and every day that passes means it gets closer to mastering the technology," said one western source.

"If the Europeans think they can outfox the Iranians in the carpet bazaar, they are deeply mistaken.""

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