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Iran Announces It Will Restart Nuclear Fuel Research

“I am running out of patience, the international community is running out of patience, the credibility of the verification process is at stake,” IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei told Britain’s Sky Television, according to Reuters.

The United States, Germany, France and Britain have spent the last two years trying to persuade Iran to abandon its fuel enrichment program. The foursome fears the country, now headed by ultra-conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, may use the technology to build nuclear weapons.

Despite Iran’s announcement Monday, diplomats told Reuters that no reports had reached them from inspectors indicating the country actually had begun enrichment activities.

In a deal reached between Iran and the four countries in Paris in 2004, Iran said it would suspend all nuclear fuel processing, but has since invited other Islamic countries to share in its nuclear know-how. An IAEA report in September 2005, less than a year after the Paris agreement, also claimed Iran had already resumed uranium conversion despite its promise.

Iran denies the motive to build nuclear weapons and claims it has the right to conduct nuclear research to generate electricity.

“Iran will never abandon its legitimate right to nuclear technology,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on state television, Reuters reported.

On Monday, the United States urged Iran to abandon its efforts or face referral to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. Germany warned Iran’s move would have “consequences.”

“They [Iran] have a history of concealing their activities from the international community and not abiding by their international obligations,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Austria also criticized the announcement.

Iran’s resumption of uranium enrichment is “the wrong step in the wrong direction and a cause of very serious concern,” Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said, according to Reuters.

Talks between Iran and Russia over plans for the Islamic nation to enrich uranium in Russia thereby ensuring the uranium would not reach weapons-grade level ended with little progress Sunday, much to the disappointment of the United States and EU, which back the plan, Reuters reported.

The IAEA must now decide whether to call an emergency meeting of the organization’s members, who could choose to refer Iran to the Security Council.