‘Iran could resume centrifuge assembly’
TEHRAN: Iran could soon resume the assembly of centrifuges used to enrich uranium but does not yet intend to resume the highly sensitive enrichment process itself, the foreign ministry said on Sunday.
“The question of resuming enrichment has not been raised,” spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters. “The question that has been raised is that of the assembly of parts, and we will announce our decision in the coming days.”
Iran’s top national security official and nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, had on Saturday reacted angrily to being slapped with yet more criticism from the UN’s nuclear watchdog and had said the Islamic republic’s suspension of enrichment would be reviewed.
But the cleric later appeared to back away from the threat, saying Iran had no intention of resuming enrichment “for the time being”.
Uranium enrichment is a major preoccupation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has pressured Iran into halting its work on the nuclear fuel cycle while UN inspections are still in progress.
The IAEA is investigating allegations that Iran is using a bid to generate atomic energy as a cover for top secret weapons development, and has discovered traces of highly enriched uranium (HEU) at least three sites here. Enriching uranium can be aimed at producing both fuel for a nuclear reactor or for a nuclear bomb.
Under pressure from the IAEA and following the intervention of Britain, France and Germany, Iran agreed in October last year to suspend enrichment and related activities while the IAEA probe continued. A resumption of enrichment would spark a major crisis with the IAEA, and even the resumption of work on other parts of the nuclear fuel cycle would raise fresh alarm at IAEA headquarters in Vienna.
Iran, however, is angry at the Europeans because they had pledged to help Iran normalise relations with the IAEA if Tehran cooperated. Iran insists it has met its side of the bargain, although the IAEA disagrees. “We had agreed to expand the scope of the suspension of enrichment to include the production of components (for centrifuges) and their assembly,” Asefi said. “Given that the Europeans have not kept their promises, our moral obligations are in question,” he added.
It was the three European countries that pushed the IAEA resolution through on Friday. afp