Iran Issues Warning

Friday, March 9th 2007, 6:57 am
By: News On 6

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iran's foreign minister warned on Friday that the latest punitive move by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency _ the suspension of nearly two dozen nuclear aid programs _ could affect Tehran's cooperation with the agency.

Delegates to a 35-nation meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday approved the suspension of nearly two dozen nuclear technical aid programs to Iran as part of U.N. sanctions imposed because of the country's nuclear defiance.

``This sort of decision can affect the cooperation of Iran'' with the IAEA, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted as saying by Iranian state television.

The IAEA's decision was symbolically important _ only North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq had been subject to such action _ although none of the aid programs directly applied to Iran's uranium enrichment program which the West fears is used to develop nuclear arms.

Instead, the projects are meant to support the peaceful use of nuclear energy in medicine, agriculture, waste management, management training or power generation. They are provided to dozens of countries, mostly developing nations.

Iran has refused to halt uranium enrichment despite nearly three months of Security Council sanctions and the looming possibility that those sanctions could be stepped up.

Mottaki did not elaborate how the IAEA's move could reflect on Iran's cooperation with the agency, but his dissatisfaction was evident.

``Iran's peaceful nuclear activities have a legal base and it is not possible to approach them with political motifs and decisions,'' Mottaki said. ``The agency, in the framework of its legal tasks, should avoid politicization of its decisions.''

Iran's relationship with the IAEA has long been difficult.

For example, although IAEA inspectors and cameras monitor some of Iran's nuclear activities, Tehran continues to refuse IAEA requests to set up more cameras at key locations in its central nuclear facility in Natanz.

Those cameras would give U.N. monitors a full view of the plant's underground hall that Tehran says will ultimately house 54,000 enriching centrifuges, enough to produce dozens of nuclear weapons a year. Lack of full remote monitoring means the IAEA cannot keep tabs on all activities at the bunker.

Tehran-IAEA relations were further burdened in late January when Tehran barred 38 inspectors from entering the country and threatened to bar inspectors from countries that voted in favor of the U.N. sanctions.

The U.N. Security Council in December imposed sanctions against Iran for defying its demand to freeze uranium enrichment. The five permanent council members now are consulting on additional sanctions after Tehran also ignored a late-February deadline to stop the enrichment.

Iran claims it is acting within its full right to develop an enrichment program to generate nuclear power. Enrichment is not prohibited under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed.

But the U.S. and several of its Western allies fear Iran is using its nuclear program to produce an atomic weapon _ charges Iran denies, saying its aim is to generate electricity only. Enriched to a low level, uranium is used to produce nuclear fuel but further enrichment makes it suitable for building an atomic bomb.

Mottaki's comments Friday, as well as those of Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, on Thursday, reflect that Tehran's stance has not been shaken.

``The enrichment program will continue as planned,'' Soltanieh said.