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Iran to restart nuclear work

Notes advance in missile program

TEHRAN -- Iran said yesterday that it will restart some nuclear activities as soon as August and announced it has developed solid-fuel technology for its ballistic missiles, increasing the accuracy of weapons able to reach Israel and US forces in the Persian Gulf.

The Shahab-3 missile -- able to fly up to 1,200 miles, according to Iran, putting the entire Arabian Peninsula and even parts of Greece and Egypt within its range -- is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Iran, however, insists its controversial nuclear program does not aim to develop weapons.

The developments come as new hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prepares to take office Aug. 6. Some Europeans worry that he will take a tougher line in negotiations about Iran's nuclear program. Ahmadinejad has said Iran will not pursue atomic weapons, but will not submit to international pressure to abandon its nuclear program.

Iran has decided to resume parts of the program it froze under an agreement with the Europeans, outgoing President Mohammad Khatami said yesterday.

The process to be resumed is the conversion of raw uranium into gas, Khatami said. He said Iran would not resume the next stage, enrichment of the gas. Enrichment turns the gas into material that can be used either to produce weapons or as fuel for a nuclear reactor to produce energy.

In November, Iran suspended uranium enrichment-related activities to avoid possible UN sanctions and to build trust in negotiations with Europeans, who are trying to impose limits to ensure Iran cannot produce weapons.

Iran has repeatedly said the suspension is voluntary and temporary. In May, it agreed to continue the suspension in return for a comprehensive plan by Europeans by early August, including economic incentives. Khatami said that once that plan is produced, it will restart work at the Isfahan conversion facility that reprocesses uranium into gas, whether or not the Europeans consent.

Iran has said it does not want to make atomic weapons, despite US claims to the contrary, but defends its right to pursue a nuclear program for peaceful purposes.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said Iran has taken an ''important step forward," successfully testing a solid-fuel engine for the Shahab-3 and developing technology to produce solid fuel domestically.

Solid fuel makes missiles more durable and dramatically increases their accuracy. Missiles using liquid fuel are short-lived.

Israeli officials would not immediately comment. But retired Major General Isaac Ben-Israel of the Israeli Air Force, a weapons specialist now on the faculty of Tel Aviv University, said, ''It doesn't matter what kind of fuel they use. What matters is how lethal the warhead is."

Iran's Shahab-3

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