TEHRAN, 8 Aug. (IPS) Iran resumed nuclear works at the Uranium Conversion Facility on Monday 8 August, heralding a dangerous escalation of unprecedented crisis with the international community and above all, Britain, France and Germany, Tehran’s main three nuclear negotiators.
The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed ElBarade’i informed members of the Agency’s Board of Directors that Iran today started to feed uranium ore concentrate into the first part of the process line at the Uranium Conversion Facility", the IAEA said in a statement.
Cheering Iranian technicians started to feed yellowcake into conversion tubes.
Iran put its decision to resume works at the UCF facilities situated near the central and historical city of Esfahan one day ahead of an emergency meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Directors called by the European Union’s so-called Big, or EU 3.
Cheering Iranian technicians started to feed barrels containing yellowcake, or natural uranium ore that once transformed into hexafluoride gas and enriched, could produce material for either civilian or military uses into conversion tubes.
Tens of Iranian and foreign journalists as well as inspectors and technicians from the Vienna-based IAEA were present, invited by the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (ATOI).
“This is a great moment for the Iranian people”, said Dr. Mohammad Sa’idi, the ATOI,s Deputy General Director for International Affairs said, adding that “full activity of the UCF plant up to the production of UF6 would be completed by the end of the week and once seals are removed from the UF6 sections”.
Iran started construction of the Esfahan facilities secretly ten years ago with help from China, but had to complete it alone after the Chinese refused unilaterally to end the 120 millions Dollars project, probably under pressures from Washington, which, like Israel and some other Western nations, accuses the ruling Iranian ayatollahs of being after nuclear weapons, an accusation Iran vehemently rejects, saying its atomic programme is for civilian purposes only.
“We shall store the products of Esfahan facilities to the day installations for enriching uranium are reactivated”, Mr. Sa’idi said, referring to uranium enriching centre at the city of Natanz, situated 100 kilometres north of Esfahan, activities that Iran suspended voluntarily two years ago according to agreement it reached with the EU3 as a “confidence building measure”.
Iran’s decision was taken about at the same time it rejected as “unacceptable and without value” a proposal by the EU3 offering nuclear, political and economic cooperation against engagement by Tehran to renounce enriching uranium, a move Iran says is “out of question”.
However, Iran suspended all parts of its nuclear program that could be used to produce enriched-uranium fuel for nuclear power plants or weapons under a deal it reached with France, Britain and Germany in Paris in November 2004.
The partial reactivation of works at the UCF met with an immediate condemnation by the United States.
The partial reactivation of works at the UCF met with an immediate condemnation by the United States, urging the IAEA to pass on to the United Nations Security Council the Iranian case for possible sanctions.
“We've said all along that should Iran break the seals and restart uranium enrichment at Esfahan or anywhere else, we would think an appropriate response would be a referral to the United Nations”, commented an American diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity and as the EU3 were to decide on the position to adopt vis-à-vis the Iranian fait accompli.
Iran’ Sa’idi told journalists that decision is irreversible even if the (IAEA) Board (of Directors) decides tomorrow (Tuesday) to send the Iran dossier to the Security Council because the demand has no legal basis and is contrary to the NPT".
The nuclear crisis escalated as Mahmoud Amadi Nezhad, described an “islamo-populist” faithful to Iran’s orthodox leader Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i took over the reformist Mohammad Khatami and as Mr. Ali Larijani, his advisor for foreign affairs is expected to replace Hojjatoleslam Hasan Rohani as both Secretary to Iran’s Supreme Council on National Security and top nuclear negotiator.
A former unpopular Head of the conservatives controlled Radio and Television; Larijani distinguished himself by his hard line attitude over Iran's nuclear ambitions as well as a critic of the Iranian negotiators, saying they gave the Big 3 a “rare pearl but got a bonbon instead”.
Iranian and foreign analysts are puzzled explaining the reasons behind the sudden hardening of Iranian position in the two years-long talks with the EU3. “One reason might be that supporters of the new President want to give him the image of a strongman, also telling the European negotiators that times have changed. Either they come along with Iranian demands or face the collapse of the talks”, one analyst pointed out.
“Considering the relatively negative image Ahmadi Nezhad has both inside and outside Iran, the resumption of activities at the UCF has brought Ahmadi Nezhad wide support among Iranians frustrated at big Western powers imposing their will on the Iranian people”, commented another Iran watcher. ENDS IRAN EU NUCLEAR 8805