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Iran Considers Resuming Uranium Enrichment

19 June 2004 -- Iran says it will decide soon whether to resume uranium enrichment, after it was criticized yesterday by the UN's nuclear watchdog.

Hassan Rowhani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, told a news conference today that a decision should be made "in the coming days."

The International Atomic Energy Agency ( IAEA) yesterday adopted a resolution deploring Iran for not cooperating fully with nuclear inspectors and urging Iran to be more forthcoming.

This leaves the matter open until the IAEA's next board meeting in September.

Rowhani said this showed Britain, Germany and France had not kept their part of a deal from last October, under which Iran agreed to suspend enrichment:

"In fact, what we reached in agreement with the Europeans in Brussels is concluded in our viewpoints," Rowhani said. "The Europeans themselves ignored the matter. They committed to closing down the file in June. Therefore, as they did not act on their commitments to our end, we are not committed anymore."

Enrichment is a process of purifying uranium for nuclear power plants, but it can also be used to make atomic weapons.

A resumption of enrichment activities would fuel U.S. accusations that Iran wants a nuclear-weapons capability.

But while Rowhani said Iran could reverse its decision on enrichment, he said the country will continue to cooperate with the IAEA and will not withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear-weapons technology.

And he reiterated Iran's assertions that its nuclear program is purely peaceful and designed to generate electricity:

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has never been thinking about making nuclear weapons, not in the future nor at the present time," Rowhani said.

Neither the IAEA nor individual board members have reacted to Rowhani's statements.

(RFE/wire reports)