Daily Telegraph: The diplomatic storm surrounding Iran’s nuclear programme intensified yesterday as the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog held an emergency meeting to discuss sanctions against Teheran. There were also credible but unconfirmed reports that Iran had resumed the manufacture of centrifuges, used in producing weapons-grade uranium, despite an earlier promise to stop. Daily Telegraph
By Tim Butcher, Middle East Correspondent
The diplomatic storm surrounding Iran’s nuclear programme intensified yesterday as the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog held an emergency meeting to discuss sanctions against Teheran.
There were also credible but unconfirmed reports that Iran had resumed the manufacture of centrifuges, used in producing weapons-grade uranium, despite an earlier promise to stop.
With no decision by the International Atomic Energy Agency on sanctions likely before today, Iran maintained its defiant posture with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissing Europe’s diplomatic overtures as “an insult”.
“The Europeans talk as though the Iranian people were a backward people, as if they were still in the last century when they dominated our country,” he said.
Iran’s outgoing defence minister described as “humiliating” Europe’s offer of economic and technological support in return for Teheran suspending nuclear fuel production.
“We will go along with possible sanctions rather than submit to humiliation if there is no other choice,” Adml Ali Shamkhani said.
An exiled Iranian dissident, who has given accurate information in the past about Iran’s covert nuclear capability, said he had evidence that Teheran recently produced 4,000 centrifuges. This was in spite of an undertaking by Teheran to the IAEA that it would not add to its stock of 164 centrifuges.
The IAEA said it was “taking seriously” the allegation about the new devices and had started its own investigation.
The claim added to the crisis provoked when Iran resumed conversion of its uranium stock on Monday, one of the early steps in the preparation of nuclear weapons. Teheran insists the nuclear fuel is destined for its nuclear power programme.
As representatives of the 35 nations on the IAEA’s board met at its headquarters in Vienna, France said that it hoped the row could be sorted out without the use of economic sanctions.
“It is still possible to negotiate,” Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French foreign minister, said. “We are still holding out our hand.”
Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA director general, also said he hoped the row could be resolved through negotiations. The European Union has taken the lead in nuclear talks with Teheran over the past three years.
“I would hope this is simply a hiccup in the process and not a permanent rupture [in the EU-Iran talks”>,” he said before the IAEA board session. “I call on all parties to continue the negotiating process.”