Big powers urge Iran to heed UN nuke freeze demand

Reuters: The United States, the EU and Russia urged Iran on Monday to comply with the U.N. nuclear watchdog's demand that it halt all activities linked to uranium enrichment, a
process that can be used to build an atom bomb. Reuters

By Louis Charbonneau

VIENNA - The United States, the EU and Russia urged Iran on Monday to comply with the U.N. nuclear watchdog's demand that it halt all activities linked to uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to build an atom bomb.

"The EU ... calls on Iran to heed the content of the resolution adopted by last week's (IAEA) board of governors, in particular with regard to the necessity to suspend fully all its enrichment-related activities," the head of the Dutch delegation told a meeting of members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on behalf of the European Union.

On Sunday, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani said Tehran rejected as illegal the demand in the IAEA resolution, which was sponsored by France, Britain and Germany. Enrichment is permitted under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The EU's "big three" powers have been trying since last year to persuade Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment programme, which the United States and some other countries believe Tehran intends to use to make fissile material for weapons.

Iran denies wanting atomic weapons and says its nuclear programme is for the peaceful generation of electricity.

Dutch ambassador Justus de Visser said of the IAEA's investigation of Iran's nuclear programme: "It is a matter of serious concern that a number of issues after two years still await clarification."

In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement along similar lines. "Tehran has been urged to re-impose a moratorium on all uranium enrichment activities. We back this call," it said.

Russia, which normally steers clear of political debate over Iran, is helping Tehran build a nuclear reactor at the port of Bushehr despite strong pressure from the United States.

Iran reiterated its position, making clear that it would not allow any outside interference in its nuclear activities.

"Our great nation will not permit any interference and/or interruption in our purely peaceful and indigenous nuclear programme and it will not give (it) up at any price," Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation and one of the country's vice presidents, told the IAEA meeting.

U.S. ORDERS IRAN TO COMPLY

The IAEA, which has been probing Iran's nuclear programme for two years, has found many previously concealed activities that could be used in a weapons programme, but no "smoking gun" that would confirm U.S. suspicions.

Washington believes the resolution passed by the IAEA on Saturday opened the door to tough action by the IAEA board when it meets again in November -- namely, a referral of Iran's case to the U.N. Security Council and possibly economic sanctions.

U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told the IAEA meeting that Iran has been violating its obligation for almost two decades by concealing its uranium enrichment programme.

"For nearly 20 years, it has acted contrary to (NPT) obligations, secretly building sensitive nuclear fuel cycle facilities and doing so for weapons purposes," he said.

"The IAEA board of governors has said that Iran must cease its pursuit of nuclear weapons, suspend enrichment activity and answer all questions raised by the board. And it is essential that Iran now cooperate fully and immediately with the IAEA's requests."