- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 12, 2004

TEHRAN — Iran won’t accept any new internationally imposed obligations regarding its nuclear program and the world must recognize the country as a nuclear-capable nation, the foreign minister said yesterday.

The comments suggested a toughening of Iran’s position two days before a meeting of the 35-nation board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.

“We won’t accept any new obligations,” Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told reporters. “Iran has a high technical capability and has to be recognized by the international community as a member of the nuclear club,” he said. “This is an irreversible path.”

The IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, has wrestled for more than a year with what to do regarding what the United States and its allies say is a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program. Iran has rejected such charges, saying its nuclear program is geared toward generating electricity, not making a bomb.

Mr. Kharrazi insisted yesterday that Iran won’t give up its development of the nuclear fuel cycle, the steps for processing and enriching uranium necessary for both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. Iran says it has achieved the full cycle but is not enriching uranium.

“That somebody demands that we give up the nuclear fuel cycle … is an additional demand,” Mr. Kharrazi said. He apparently was referring to demands by the United States and European countries that Iran halt operations of a plant it inaugurated in March in Isfahan, central Iran, that processes uranium into gas and abort plans to build a heavy water reactor in Arak, another city in central Iran.

“We can’t accept such an additional demand, which is contrary to our legal and legitimate rights,” he said. “No one in Iran can make a decision to deny the nation of something that is a source of pride.”

Iran suspended uranium enrichment last year under mounting international pressure. In April, it said it had stopped building centrifuges. IAEA inspectors had found traces of highly enriched uranium at two sites, which Iranian officials maintained was due to contaminated imported materials.

Mr. Kharrazi also said a draft resolution critical of Iran drawn up by Germany, France and Britain to be presented at the IAEA board meeting tomorrow is “unacceptable unless changes are made.”

He said insistence by Europeans on “very tiny issues is contrary to the spirit of cooperation” and accused them of bowing to U.S. pressure and showing “lack of independence.”

Washington wants the IAEA to declare Iran in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and refer Iran’s case to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions.

Mr. Kharrazi confirmed Iran’s efforts to buy 4,000 magnets needed for uranium enrichment equipment, saying the issue was being “unnecessarily” hyped. He did not say where the magnets were purchased.

Diplomats in Vienna said Iran has acknowledged inquiring about 4,000 magnets needed for uranium enrichment equipment with a European black-market supplier and had dangled the possibility of buying a “higher number.”

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