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IAEA Discusses Iran's Nuclear Fuel Program


Iran has resumed uranium conversion activities at a key nuclear facility in Central Iran amid warnings from the international community about possible economic sanctions against Tehran.

European negotiators held an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday after Iran resumed activities at the Isfahan nuclear conversion facility in Central Iran.

IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming says efforts by Britain, Germany and France to persuade Iran to drop its uranium enrichment program in return for economic incentives appear to have failed: "Today we can confirm that the Iranians have begun to feed uranium or concentrate into the process line at the uranium conversion facility in Isfahan. Regrettably they did this, despite our telling them that we needed a 24 hour testing period for the cameras we had set up."

Germany's Foreign minister Joschka Fisher urged Iran to reconsider, saying "the restart of uranium production brings risks that Iran should consider a step in the wrong direction."

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization maintains its nuclear program is aimed only at producing electricity but analysts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington believe Iran has larger ambitions. Anthony Cordesman is the Center's senior Middle East expert.

Mr. Cordesman said, "There's no question there's a nuclear program underway, the issue basically is how committed are the Iranians, how large is the program, how easy is it to conceal things we don't know?"

The 35-nation IAEA board still has the option of reporting Iran to the UN Security Council, which can impose economic or political sanctions. But the Agency's chief Mohamed ElBaradei is hopeful the standoff can be resolved: "I would hope that this is simply a hiccup in the process and not a permanent rupture. We have made very good progress in the last couple of years in regard to clarifying Iran's past nuclear activities and I will report to the board next month again on this issue."

US president George W. Bush urges Iran to return to the bargaining table or face the consequences: "It is important for the Iranians to understand that American stands squarely with the EU-3, that we feel strongly the Iranians need to adhere to the agreements made in the Paris accord, and that we will be willing to work with our partners in dealing with appropriate consequences should they ignore the demands."

Iran's decision to resume operations at Isfahan ends an 8 month long suspension that was worked out late last year to avoid UN sanctions. But Iran's Defense minister says his country would rather submit to economic sanctions than back down on its nuclear
program.

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