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Iran warns it may resist nuclear probe by UN

Plans to resume uranium program

TEHRAN -- Iran said yesterday it planned to resume uranium enrichment and warned it may quit cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which it accused of kowtowing to Washington at a crucial meeting in Vienna.

Separately, Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani told reporters the Iranian military had built nuclear centrifuges for civilian use -- the first time Iran has acknowledged its military was involved in the country's nuclear program.

The IAEA director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, warned that Iran risked undermining its efforts to convince the world its nuclear intentions are peaceful.

"I think suspension [of enrichment] is . . . a good confidence-building measure, and Iran needs to do everything possible right now to create the confidence required," ElBaradei said yesterday in Vienna, where the UN atomic agency's board of governors was meeting.

The agency's 35-nation board of governors was preparing for a debate today on whether Iran is living up to its pledge to full transparency on its nuclear program.

The United States, which suspects Iran is building nuclear arms, wants a draft resolution on Iran to take a tough line because of evidence of secrecy. But the Europeans want to acknowledge that Iran has made substantial, if not complete, steps toward openness.

A draft obtained by the Associated Press said the agency noted "with the most serious concern" that Iran's declarations "did not amount to the correct, complete, and final picture of Iran's past and present nuclear program."

But it also praised Iran for signing an agreement that granted a free hand to IAEA inspectors.

Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA, Pirouz Hosseini, told reporters outside the board of governors meeting that Iran was unhappy with the draft and accused the United States of putting pressure on the Europeans.

"We have never been involved in any nuclear weapons program . . . and the Americans don't want to accept the fact," Hosseini said.

In Tehran, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi accused the world body of failing to reciprocate.

"We told [the IAEA] that cooperation should be bilateral," Kharrazi said. "We take steps and expect the other side to take steps. It can't go one-sided."

Kharrazi warned Britain, France, and Germany -- whose foreign ministers visited Tehran last year to discuss the nuclear issue -- that Iran will stop cooperating if they fail to resist US pressure at the Vienna meeting.

"We recommend that the three European countries remain committed to their obligations [toward Tehran] and resist US pressure, if they want . . . cooperation between Iran and them to lead to results," Kharrazi said. "Cooperation is a two-way street."

Kharrazi said Iran had a "legitimate right to enrich uranium" to fuel the nuclear reactor it is building to generate electrical power.

"We suspended uranium enrichment voluntarily and temporarily," Kharrazi said. "Later, when our relations with the IAEA return to normal, we will definitely resume [uranium] enrichment."

One of the reasons for the recent IAEA inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities was last year's discovery of undeclared uranium enrichment.

Kharrazi accused the IAEA of giving in to US pressure.

"Unfortunately, the agency is sometimes influenced by the United States, while it should maintain its technical and professional identity," Kharrazi said.

Defense Minister Shamkhani said that "contrary to US allegations," military industries had produced P-1 centrifuges, which are used for low-grade enrichment, not the P-2 models used for weapons-grade enriched uranium.

"It's natural in the world that defense industries produce civilian parts," Shamkhani said, adding that the industries also produce televisions and parts for civilian planes and vehicles. The IAEA has questioned Iran about blueprints for the more advanced P-2 centrifuges. Iran says the blueprints never got beyond the research stage.

A leading Iranian hard-line editor, Hossein Shariatmadari, urged the government yesterday to give the IAEA an ultimatum.

"Iran has to set a deadline," Shariatmadari wrote in the newspaper Kayhan. "If Iran's nuclear dossier is not removed from the agency's agenda, Iran must not only stop allowing unfettered inspections of its nuclear facilities, it must resume uranium enrichment and, possibly, even withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty."

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