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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Iran vows to drive nuclear program at 'full speed'

Last update - 09:35 24/12/2006   

Iran vows to drive nuclear program at 'full speed'
By Haaretz Service and Agencies

Iran's top nuclear negotiator said the country will push forward immediately with efforts to enrich uranium, after the UN Security Council imposed sanctions designed to stop the nuclear efforts, a newspaper reported Sunday.
"From Sunday morning, we will begin activities at Natanz - site of 3,000 centrifuge machines - and we will drive it with full speed. It will be our immediate response to the resolution," the Kayhan newspaper quoted Ali Larijani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, as saying.
On Saturday, the Security Council voted unanimously to impose sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, increasing international pressure on the government to prove that it is not trying to make nuclear weapons. The resolution, which was sponsored by Britain, Germany, and France, was approved in a 15-0 vote that included a yes vote by Qatar.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director Mohamed ElBaradei said Saturday. that his agency is ready to implement the UN Security Council resolution on Iran.
"The agency will implement the relevant parts of the UNSC resolution that relates to its work," the IAEA said. According to diplomats close to the IAEA the resolution "does not ask much" of the UN nuclear watchdog, only to limit its technical cooperation with Iran, excepting fields like food or agriculture.
Iran formally rejected the council's decision, calling the sanctions illegal and vowing to continue its nuclear program. Iran's parliament speaker said prior to the vote that parliament would alter the Islamic Republic's relationship with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear watchdog if the sanctions were approved.
"Today we are placing Iran in the small category of states under Security Council sanctions," acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff told the council before the vote.
"We will not hesitate to return to this body to seek further action should Iran fail to comply," Wolff added.
Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who was successful in watering down parts of the resolution, emphasized however that the resolution did not permit any use of force.
Moscow's earlier hesitation over supporting the resolution prompted a phone call Saturday between U.S. President George W. Bush to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had reviewed the resolution until the last minute following two months of tough negotiations. Russia is building an $800 million light-water reactor for Tehran that is exempted in the resolution.
The resolution demands Tehran end all research on uranium enrichment, which can produce fuel for nuclear power plants as well as for bombs, and halt research and development that can make or deliver atomic weapons.
The resolution is under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which makes enforcement mandatory but restricts action to nonmilitary measures. It would suspend sanctions if Tehran in turn suspended "all enrichment related and reprocessing activities, including research and development."
The thrust of the sanctions is a ban on imports and exports of dangerous materials and technology relating to uranium enrichment, reprocessing and heavy-water reactors, as well as ballistic missile delivery systems.
Iran has vowed to continue its nuclear program, which first came to light in 2002 and Iran says is for peaceful purposes. (Click here for a timeline of Iran's nuclear program)
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told state-run television the resolution "cannot affect or limit Iran's peaceful nuclear activities but will discredit the decisions of the Security Council, whose power is deteriorating."
The IAEA expressed its hope that a diplomatic solution was still possible and a comprehensive agreement could be reached: "The
Director General believes that a long term solution to the Iranian nuclear issue has to be based on negotiation and mutual
ElBaradei hopes for an agreement allowing for the development of cooperation with Iran based on "mutual respect and the establishment of international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program."
Israel wecomes resolution

Israeli leaders meanwhile welcomed the Security Council's decision, while the United States administration said the sanctions aren't enough, and it hopes that the international community will enact further measures.
The resolution imposed sanctions on Iran's trade in sensitive nuclear materials and ballistic missiles in an attempt to get Tehran to halt uranium enrichment work.
Iran also accused the Security Council of pursuing a double standard in imposing sanctions on what it said was Tehran's peaceful nuclear program while ignoring Israel's purported nuclear arsenal.
"It is indisputable that nuclear weapons in the hands of the Israeli regime with an unparalleled record of noncompliance with Security Council resolutions ... poses a uniquely grave threat to regional and international peace and security," Iranian UN Ambassador Jawad Zarif told the 15-nation council.
"The same governments which have pushed this council to take groundless punitive measures against Iran's peaceful nuclear program have systematically prevented it from taking any action to nudge the Israeli regime towards submitting itself to the rules governing the nuclear nonproliferation regime," Zarif told the 15-nation council.
"A nation is being punished for exercising its inalienable rights" to develop nuclear energy, primarily at the behest of the U.S. and Israel, "which is apparently being rewarded today for having clandestinely developed and unlawfully possessed nuclear weapons," Zarif said.
"Some of the members of the Security Council, especially the United States ... do not commit themselves to the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] and freely provide this technology and equipment to other countries and do not commit themselves to any of the articles of nuclear disarmament," Hosseini said. "On the contrary they develop their nuclear arsenals."
"This decision cannot stand against the will of the Iranian nation," the spokesman added.
He said in a separate statement that Iran would press ahead with its plan to install 3,000 centrifuges in its Natanz facility.
"The new resolution won't be an obstacle in the way of Iran's nuclear progress," the statement said. "The Iranian nation, relying on its national capabilities and within the framework of its rights stipulated in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, will continue its peaceful nuclear activities."
The centrifuges are machines which can purify uranium to a low level for use in reactors, or a far higher level for use in nuclear weapons.
Israel: Resolution sends clear message to Iran
Defense Minister Amir Peretz welcomed Saturday's UN Security Council decision to impose sanctions on Iran, calling it an important step. Nonetheless, Peretz said, Israel must continue to push for stricter sanctions.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres said the "decision is a small first step, but in the right direction."
"Before going to war it is possible to achieve what we want without war, if the world will take the right steps," continued Peres.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said it sends "a clear message to the Iranian leadership that Iran's nuclear program is total unacceptable and the community of nations will act to prevent the Iranian regime from obtaining nuclear weapons."
The Defense Ministry said the international community "will need to continue to show determination to reach the goal of blocking Iran's nuclear plan."
The U.S. administration said Saturday it hopes the resolution penalizing Iran for its nuclear enrichment program will clear the way for tougher measures against Tehran by individual countries, particularly Russia.
"We don't think this resolution is enough in itself," Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said. "We want the international community to take further action. We're certainly not going to put all our eggs in the UN basket."
Approval of the resolution under a part of the UN Charter that makes it binding is "going to be humiliating for Iran," Burns told reporters after the unanimous vote.
Burns said the resolution takes away a main argument against bilateral penalties by individual countries, which have told U.S. officials that they could not do so until the UN acted. The administration wants other nations to join the U.S. and stop selling arms to Iran and to limit export credits to Tehran, he said.
"We want to let the Iranians know that there is a big cost to them," Burns said, so they will return to talks.
"We hope the Russian government is going to work with us in a very active way to send this message of unity to Iran and we hope Russia is going to take a very vigorous approach itself," Burns said.
Neither President George W. Bush, spending the holidays at Camp David in
Maryland and meeting with advisers on a new Iraq plan, nor the White House offered immediate comment on the vote.
"And yet we feel very strongly that having achieved this, this is a powerful message to Iran," Burns said.
Reacting to the resolution, France's Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in a statement Saturday: "Today, more than ever, our objective remains convincing Iran to conform with its international commitments."
He lauded the unanimous passage of the resolution and said it places Iran squarely before a choice: "cooperate with the international community or continue its (uranium) enrichment and reprocessing activities at the risk of growing isolation."
The minister said that France, which worked to make the resolution acceptable to all Security Council members, would continue to press for dialogue with Tehran.
Iran warning

Iran's parliament speaker said Saturday that parliament would alter the Islamic Republic's relationship with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear watchdog if the sanctions were approved.
"If they intend to deprive the Iranian nation of its certain right to nuclear technology by a resolution... parliament will reconsider the nature of its relationship with the IAEA," Parliament Speaker Gholamali Haddadadel told state television.
Haddadadel said if the pressure mounts on Iran, parliament will have to discuss a plan, approved by the parliament's national security committee, that wants a serious reconsideration in Iran's relation with the IAEA.
He did not elaborate on the contents of the bill and how it was meant to alter Iran's relationship with the IAEA. Parliament has already banned IAEA snap inspections in February in response to its nuclear case referral to the UN Security Council.
However, the head of parliament's national security committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi said on Saturday that Iran was not interested in quitting the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) despite possible sanctions.
"Since Iran seriously opposes building nuclear weapons it is not interested in signing out from such an important matter in international aspect," Boroujerdi was quoted by Iran's student news agency ISNA as saying.

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