Iran Urged to Suspend Uranium Enrichment

Associated Press: U.N. nuclear agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei on Thursday renewed his calls to Iran to fully suspend all uranium enrichment-related activities, after
Tehran admitted it has converted a few tons of uranium into gas.
Associated Press

MARI YAMAGUCHI

TOKYO - U.N. nuclear agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei on Thursday renewed his calls to Iran to fully suspend all uranium enrichment-related activities, after Tehran admitted it has converted a few tons of uranium into gas.

Iran said Wednesday that it has converted a few tons of raw uranium into a gas key to achieving the nuclear proficiency it covets, risking confrontation with an international community that fears Tehran's goal is to create atomic weapons, not nuclear energy.

ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he believed Iran is not enriching uranium and their enrichment facilities are still suspended.

"I am calling on them to fully suspend all enrichment activities as a confidence building measure, and we're still working with them," ElBaradei said in Tokyo, where he is visiting to meet with top Japanese officials to discuss regional nuclear issues. "I hope we can move in a positive way."

Last month, the IAEA board of governors specifically demanded Iran stop all enrichment-related activities, and cited the plans to convert raw uranium into hexafluoride gas as particularly alarming. Iran has refused to back down, and its parliament is studying a bill that would require the Iranian government to proceed with the enrichment process over any objections.

Addressing another international nuclear threat, ElBaradei met with Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda and agreed to work together to resolve the North Korean nuclear weapons development program.

Before coming to Japan, ElBaradei was in Seoul, Korea, to attend a conference on global security and discuss with South Korean officials their nation's undeclared nuclear experiments.

Seoul recently acknowledged it conducted a plutonium-based nuclear experiment in 1982 and a uranium-enrichment experiment in 2000. Plutonium and enriched uranium are key ingredients in nuclear weapons.

North Korea has said the experiments and what it considers a "hostile" U.S. policy have blocked progress in six-nation talks on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons development.

The six countries involved — the United States, the two Koreas, Japan, China and Russia — had planned to hold a round of negotiations in September, but North Korea rebuffed appeals to attend.

ElBaradei was also to meet with Science and Technology Minister Yasufumi Tanahashi and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Shoichi Nakagawa.

His four-day visit to Tokyo will coincide with the announcement on Friday in Oslo of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, for which ElBaradei is considered a candidate.

He was scheduled to depart Japan Saturday.