UN nuke seals to be broken by Monday — Iran

TEHRAN (AP) — Iran announced on Sunday that inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog agency were in the country and preparing to remove seals from nuclear research facilities no later than Monday, allowing Tehran to move forward with its vow to resume nuclear fuel research.
“Iran is ready to resume the research activities after the inspectors remove the seals. It is our right as other members of the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran should not be exempted,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency said Iranian officials claimed 90 per cent of issues related to the resumption of research had been solved with the rest likely to be hashed out by the end of the day, Monday at latest.

“There is a possibility of official resumption of the activity today (Sunday) after the inspectors’ consultations with the IAEA’s head office in Vienna ends,” IRNA reported.

Tehran says its nuclear programme is for electricity generation, despite US and European concerns that it is moving to produce nuclear bombs. The US and France have pushed for taking Iran before the UN Security Council which could impose sanctions on Tehran if it is found in violation of the NPT.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in Tehran Saturday to remove seals from nuclear research facilities that they affixed after Iran voluntarily agreed to stop all enrichment-related activities more than two years ago as a confidence building measure.

Last week, Iran told the IAEA it would resume the research Monday in a move that further increased concerns in the West that Iran is moving towards production of nuclear weapons.

In Vienna, the tug of war continued Sunday between Iran and the IAEA, which asked for additional details about what exactly Tehran planned to do with its enrichment equipment.

IAEA Spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said that — while the agency had received additional information since Saturday, when Tehran first gave the agency some specifics — it still sought more.

On Thursday, a high-ranking Iranian delegation rebuffed IAEA head Mohammed Baradei, reneging on a pledge to provide full details of its plans by not showing up for a scheduled meeting with him.

Russian officials in Iran, meanwhile, continued talks about Moscow’s proposal that the two countries conduct uranium enrichment, a process that can produce nuclear fuel for reactors or atomic weapons depending on the degree of enrichment, on Russian territory.

The Russian proposal, backed by the European Union and the United States, was designed ease concerns that Iran would use the fuel to build a bomb. But Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator said the country still wants the fuel cycle on its own soil. “Iran’s right on nuclear fuel, especially enrichment, inside the country has to be guaranteed in any proposal,” Javad Vaidi told state-run radio.

IRNA said Iran still had questions about what it has called “ambiguities” in the proposal.

“The negotiation with Russians continues today [Sunday], and we will try to conclude today. Iran has raised new questions on the proposal that the Russian side could not convincingly answer. Russia may give their final answers today after reviewing Iran’s position,” IRNA reported. Asefi said there was no room for international concern about the actions, “We are doing research and development according to the agency’s regulations as well as NPT’s. We believe the western countries should not seek double standard in this respect. The activities will be under supervision of the agency, therefore there is nothing to be worried about.” Hossein Ghafourian, head of the nuclear research centre of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, said there was no turning back. “[The organisation] plans to continue its peaceful programme. Blocking research activities is similar to blocking the light,” Ghafourian told state-run radio on Sunday.

Tehran has not specified what research it will resume.

Javier Solana, the European Union foreign and security affairs chief, told Iran on Saturday that if it resumes its uranium enrichment programme, it may doom any further negotiations with the EU about economic aid and other issues.

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