- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Iran claimed “the inalienable right” to a civilian nuclear program under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at a U.N. review conference yesterday — an assertion the United States pointed to as a reason to amend the 35-year-old document.

Tehran also said it will “definitely restart some” nuclear-fuel-related activities, which it froze in November while it negotiates a long-term deal with the European Union.

“It is unacceptable that some tend to limit the access to peaceful nuclear technology to an exclusive club,” Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told delegates at the conference in New York.

“Iran, for its part, is determined to pursue all legal areas of nuclear technology, including [uranium] enrichment, exclusively for peaceful purposes,” he said.

Those activities, he said, are “the main pillars of the NPT,” and Washington and its allies are putting the treaty in danger by denying Iran and other countries the right to produce nuclear power.

“Today, the credibility of the NPT is at stake. The treaty faces new challenges, which we need to effectively address,” Mr. Kharrazi said.

“However, the fact is that this treaty, with whatever shortcomings it may have and the deficiencies in its implementation process, provides the only internationally viable foundation for curbing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and attaining the goal of nuclear disarmament,” he said.

The United States took no issue with the view that the NPT remains important and should be strengthened — but against countries like Iran that Washington says explore loopholes in the treaty to develop nuclear weapons under a civilian cover.

“It’s not a question of asserting rights here and there. Iran should be looking at this as how to reassure the international community that they’re not going to become a nuclear danger,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.

“As you watch the conference play out, there are some real serious issues raised by these cases, and people from all over the world want to look at how we can improve the controls on proliferation and make the world safer,” he said.

On Monday, the United States urged the delegates from 188 countries to make sure that Iran is not allowed to hide its offensive ambitions behind the NPT.

“For almost two decades, Iran has conducted a clandestine nuclear-weapons program,” said Stephen Rademaker, assistant secretary of state for arms control, who heads the U.S. delegation. “We dare not look the other way.”

The European Union insists that Tehran permanently abandon uranium enrichment, but its talks with Iran have been dragging on for months with no result.

Yesterday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Tehran will resume “some” nuclear activities, although he gave no details.

“What activities or when is still under study,” and will be announced later, Mr. Asefi told reporters. “As long as talks continue, suspension of uranium enrichment will continue.”

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