Bloomberg: Iran may undertake atomic work outside of international regulations if the United Nations Security Council insists that the Islamic Republic ceases uranium enrichment, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said. By Robin Stringer
March 21 (Bloomberg) — Iran may undertake atomic work outside of international regulations if the United Nations Security Council insists that the Islamic Republic ceases uranium enrichment, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.
“Until today, what we have done has been in accordance with international regulations,” Khamenei said. “If they take illegal actions, we too can take illegal actions, and will do so,” the supreme leader said in a speech at Mashhad, Iran’s holiest city, to mark the Iranian new year.
Excerpts of today’s address were televised on the Qatar- based al-Jazeera television channel, translated from Farsi into Arabic. Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority, didn’t elaborate on his reference to “illegal actions.”
The U.S. and some European powers accuse Iran of using a domestic atomic power program as a front for developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the allegation, and insists that it has a right to pursue its program under the terms of the 1968 Non- Proliferation Treaty. Iran is a signatory to the accord, which stipulates the right to nuclear power for peaceful purposes, and encourages non-proliferation and disarmament.
Iranian lawmakers and leaders have repeatedly said they may consider ending participation in the treaty in response to pressure from the United Nations Security Council to suspend the country’s enrichment program.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pronounced ah-ma-deen-ah- ZHAD, instructed officials in January to “accelerate the country’s nuclear activities and revise its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency based on Iran’s national interests,” state-run Fars News reported at the time.
The IAEA promotes peaceful nuclear technologies and reports annually to the UN General Assembly. Ahmadinejad’s order was followed by Iran’s warning that the country had taken precautions against any possible military strike on its nuclear facilities.
China and Russia agreed with the U.S. and its European allies on March 15 to pressure Iran to curb its nuclear program by freezing the assets of a state-owned Iranian bank and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Both countries have considerable investments in Iran, including construction projects and trade in natural resources. Iran was China’s leading supplier of crude oil in January.
On the same day, Britain, France and the U.S. gave UN Security Council member governments a draft resolution setting a new 60-day deadline for Iran to halt uranium enrichment activities before further sanctions would be imposed.
Enriched uranium can be used to fuel a nuclear power plant or form the core of a bomb, depending on the grade to which it is enriched.
A UN sanctions resolution in December barred Iran from acquiring materials or technology that could be used for nuclear weapons and froze the assets of 12 people and 11 groups, including the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Further sanctions could include a travel ban on officials from Iran’s government, companies and organizations.
Russian officials said on March 16 their country would stop work on a commercial nuclear power plant in Iran until payments for the project resumed. The project was being built by Russian engineers and technicians at the southern city of Bushehr, on the Persian Gulf.
The Islamic Republic is still two to three years away from building a nuclear weapon, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies said in a report in January.
Iran is probably “on track” to build 3,000 centrifuges by the end of this month, IISS Director-General John Chipman said when the report was issued.
The motor-driven centrifuges separate substances of different density, and thousands are needed for uranium enrichment. Installing the centrifuges and getting them to function is “another task of an entirely different order of magnitude, which would take at least another year but probably longer,” Chipman said.
The IAEA reported on Feb. 22 that Iran plans to install the 3,000 centrifuges at its underground facility in Natanz, in central Iran.