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Iran Starts Enriching Uranium Against U.N. Wishes

BY Admin  September 21, 2004 at 11:45 AM EST

Iranian Pres. Mohammed Khatami said his country will move ahead with its nuclear program, which he insists is only for peaceful purposes, even if it means going against the expressed wishes of the U.N. nuclear watchdog group, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“We’ve made our choice: Yes to peaceful nuclear technology, no to atomic weapons,” Khatami said at a military parade in Tehran, according to the Associated Press. “We will continue along our path even if it leads to an end to international supervision.”

The IAEA adopted a resolution Saturday calling on Iran to suspend all activities related to uranium enrichment. The United States, Russia and European Union on Monday urged Iran to comply.

Iranian Vice President Reza Aghazadeh said tests involving 40 tons of raw uranium are “going on successfully” to make uranium hexafluoride gas, the material that is later fed into centrifuges for enrichment.

Reuters reported a nuclear expert as saying once converted from yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride, Iran would eventually be able to enrich enough uranium for up to five nuclear weapons.

Iran had promised France, Britain and Germany in October it would halt all activities related to uranium enrichment in exchange for improved economic ties.

But Tehran then announced earlier this year that it would not include the production of feed materials for centrifuges in the suspension.

The resolution says the IAEA board would consider whether “further steps” would be necessary if Iran failed to implement the freeze. Diplomats said further steps include a referral to the U.N. Security Council and possible sanctions.

Aghazadeh called the resolution unjust and said he did not fear the prospect of sanctions.

Khatami said at the parade, marking the anniversary of the start of Iran’s eight-year war with Iraq, that his country wouldn’t seek nuclear weapons, regardless of IAEA supervision.

“I declare to the world that whether we are under supervision or not, we won’t go for nuclear weapons at all,” he said, according to the AP. “We won’t go for nuclear weapons not because we fear others, but because of our beliefs and principles, because we oppose nuclear weapons and consider them a threat to humanity.”

Iran is not prohibited from uranium enrichment under its obligations to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty but has faced pressure from the international community to suspend such activities as a good-faith gesture.