- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 29, 2003

TEHRAN — Iran insisted yesterday its decision to suspend uranium enrichment was “voluntary and temporary,” saying it plans to enrich enough fuel for at least one of seven nuclear power plants it expects to build.

Hasan Rowhani, head of the powerful Supreme National Security Council, also said Iran would punish countries that backed U.S. efforts to take Iran’s nuclear record to the United Nations Security Council at last week’s board meeting of the U.N. nuclear agency.

“Our decision to suspend uranium enrichment is voluntary and temporary. Uranium enrichment is Iran’s natural right and [Iran] will reserve for itself this right. … There has been and there will be no question of a permanent suspension or halt at all,” Mr. Rowhani told a news conference.

“We want to control the whole fuel cycle,” he added. “Since we are planning to build seven nuclear power plants in the future, we want to provide fuel for at least one or more of the plants ourselves.”

The 35-member board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted a compromise resolution last week censuring Iran for secrecy in its nuclear program but not directly threatening U.N. sanctions, as the United States had sought. Key European powers, worried that Tehran would stop cooperating, opposed a direct threat.

Iran has insisted its nuclear program is aimed only at peaceful uses, challenging U.S. accusations it planned to make weapons.

The Iranian government hopes to produce 6,000 megawatts of electricity by 2021 from nuclear reactors, along with one currently under construction. Iran’s first nuclear power plant, being built by the Russians, is expected to be completed by the end of 2004.

Mr. Rowhani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, said Iran possesses the technology necessary to enrich uranium and does not need foreign assistance.

“Today, we can produce centrifugal parts ourselves. We possess the technology. We are at the pilot stage. We haven’t reached the semi-industrial or industrial stage yet. It’s a local technology now,” he said.

Mr. Rowhani said countries that supported the U.S. position would be effectively barred from receiving lucrative contracts for huge energy and development projects in Iran.

Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand offered outright support to Washington, while Russia and China worked for a softer resolution, along with other European, nonaligned and Latin American states.

“Iran will not treat countries that stood beside America and others equally. We will scrutinize this carefully. In big economic projects, Iran will consider this,” he said.

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