Thursday, November 25, 2004

Iran asking IAEA to exempt some centrifuges

IranMania News: "Iran asking IAEA to exempt some centrifuges

Thursday, November 25, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com
LONDON, Nov 25 (IranMania) - Iran is demanding the right to operate uranium enrichment equipment for research purposes, despite its recent agreement with the Europeans to freeze crucial nuclear activities, European and Iranian officials said Wednesday.

European officials swiftly rejected the demand, calling it a violation of the deal, according to The New York Times.

In a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, Iran declared its right to run about two dozen centrifuges, machines that can be used to enrich uranium, the officials said.

The demand struck diplomats as a symbolic, but important, last effort by Iran to assert its sovereign right to enrich uranium, which it contends it is doing only to produce fuel for generating electricity.

Under the terms of a deal hammered out with Britain, France and Germany, Tehran was to freeze all uranium enrichment programme from Monday, a move which is now being verified by the IAEA.

The Vienna IAEA talks will also decide whether Iran should be sent to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, as the United States wants, over its nuclear activities.

But a diplomat who covers the IAEA said the Iranians "are trying to convince the IAEA to leave several dozen of the centrifuges unsealed for R&D (research and development) purposes in addition to other equipment which has direct use for enrichment."

A Western diplomat said it would be "outrageous" if Iran at the last minute exempted some centrifuges, the machines used in enriching uranium, from the suspension.

"It is not acceptable to us," a European diplomat said.

The IAEA's 35-nation board of governors will Thursday hear a European draft resolution based on the suspension agreement and which finally won US backing.

Diplomats said Washington had taken a pragmatic decision to back the European draft, even though it falls short of demanding possible UN sanctions for Iran.

Washington is "just being pragmatic for once, recognizing that the EU3 (Britain, Germany, France) text is pretty good and that there are few good policy alternatives to joining consensus on it," a Western diplomat said.

The United States has for over a year been trying to get the IAEA board to take Iran before the Security Council, but non-aligned states, as well as the European trio and Russia and China, have opposed this, saying Iran must be given a chance to cooperate with a two-year-old IAEA investigation of its nuclear program.

The head of Iran's coservative parliament, Gholamali Haddad Adel warned Wednesday that deputies would press for a resumption of enrichment if the country comes under too much pressure at the IAEA meeting.

The EU has promised Iran a long-term deal, including increased trade and peaceful nuclear technology, if it maintains suspension of enrichment.

Enriched uranium, made by spinning uranium gas in what can be cascades of thousands of centrifuges, can serve as fuel for nuclear reactors or as the raw explosive material for atomic bombs.

IAEA's team of inspectors were Wednesday racing to seal some 1,000 centrifuges in Iran, spread in workshops in some three different locations, in time to verify the suspension for Thursday's board meeting.

A diplomat close to the IAEA said: "It is up to Iran to define what it wants the IAEA to do or not to do," since it is only monitoring the agreement reached with the EU."

The IAEA "will report on what it has reached" in terms of verification, the diplomat said.

The diplomat refused to say exactly what sort of research Iran wants to do with the centrifuges, but that this would probably be for testing and not actually to enrich uranium.

The IAEA would still be able to inspect any centrifuges left out of the suspension in order to verify that they were not being used to divert nuclear material, he said.

Under IAEA investigation since February 2003, Iran agreed in October 2003 to suspend the actual enrichment of uranium but continued support activities such as making centrifuges and converting yellowcake into uranium gas."

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