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IAEA Says Iran Plans 'Small-Scale' Enrichment Work

A view of the nuclear-enrichment facility at Natanz (epa) 10 January 2006 -- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said that Iran intends to start work on nuclear-fuel enrichment -- contrary to previous assertions that its resumed research activities would stop short of this step.

In a statement issued in Vienna on 10 January, the IAEA said Iran has informed it that the work would be on a "small scale" and would take place at the pilot fuel-enrichment plant at Natanz.

The issue of enrichment is highly sensitive, because the Western powers suspect that Iran wants to perfect this process in order to make nuclear weapons -- something that Tehran denies.

Western Condemnation

Iran's stated decision earlier to resume limited research activities into the fuel cycle has led to heavy criticism.

Following the IAEA statement, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw ruled out military action against Iran in the international dispute over Iran's nuclear program but expressed to parliament his "profound concern" at that country's resumption of nuclear-fuel research.

Straw added that military action is not on Britain's agenda, nor on anyone else's, as far as he knows.

He also said Iran has the right to develop nuclear power plants but not nuclear weapons.

"Iran has an absolute right to develop nuclear power plants," Straw said. "It has no right, indeed, obligations not to do anything towards developing nuclear weapons facilities, and that is what is at issue."

But he confirmed that referring Iran to the UN Security Council -- a potential prelude to sanctions -- would be discussed when he saw his French and German counterparts in the coming days.

The U.S. White House said today that if Iran continues on its current course, it will leave the international community no choice but to refer Tehran to the UN Security Council for possible action.


RFE/RL Iran Report

RFE/RL Iran Report

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