- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 30, 2004

TEHRAN — Iran yesterday claimed victory in its nuclear dispute, saying it has isolated the United States while preserving its right to enrich uranium.

Iran said it has not abandoned its right to purify uranium, despite U.S. pressure, noting that the agreement it struck this week with the U.N. nuclear agency will only halt processing for several months.

Speaking to reporters, Iran’s top nuclear official, Hasan Rowhani, hailed the resolution passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Monday that authorizes the watchdog agency’s chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, to monitor Iran’s commitment to freeze uranium-enrichment activities. Such enrichment can produce either low-grade fuel for nuclear reactors or the raw material for atomic weapons.

The resolution followed a Nov. 7 agreement on suspending enrichment activities that France, Germany and Britain negotiated with Iran to stave off tougher action by the IAEA, which could have referred Iran to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions.

“This new situation is a turning point in Iran’s nuclear case because, for the first time, the [IAEA] board of governors acknowledged Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear activities,” Mr. Rowhani said.

It was, he said, a “great success for Iran and Europeans” because it required Tehran to halt uranium enrichment only temporarily.

The United States, which suspects Iran has a secret program to produce nuclear weapons, has been lobbying for Tehran’s nuclear file to go before the Security Council. Iran insists its program is strictly for generating electricity.

After the IAEA passed the resolution, U.S. chief delegate Jackie Sanders told the board that there were more than a dozen open questions about Iran’s nuclear intentions despite the agency’s nearly two-year investigation of the country.

“This makes it clear that the IAEA cannot … offer the necessary assurances that Iran is not attempting to produce nuclear material for weapons,” she said.

Mr. Rowhani was dismissive of U.S. arguments.

“We have proved that our enemies are liars, and the path of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been legal and peaceful,” he said.

“Despite American propaganda, Iran has not abandoned fuel cycle, and it will not do that,” he said.

“The suspension [of enrichment activities] will be limited to the negotiation period with Europe and not beyond. In case negotiations cease or are unsuccessful, there will not be any sort of suspension.”

The negotiation period, Mr. Rowhani said, “means several months,” rather than a year.

Iran is negotiating with Europe to acquire advanced nuclear technology.

Mr. Rowhani reiterated that Iran is committed to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has no ambition to build an atomic bomb.

“Iran has never pursued the production of nuclear weapons, and it will never do that,” Mr. Rowhani said.

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