Prague, 11 January 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The United States, Israel, the EU, and Russia are expressing dismay and concern at Iran’s decision to renew work on nuclear fuel.
Iran says the uranium-enrichment activities are only for research purposes. On 10 January Iranian Atomic Energy Organization deputy head Mohammad Saeedi said, "the production of nuclear fuel is still under suspension."
But Western countries are concerned that Iran’s efforts to master the process of enriching uranium could eventually lead to nuclear-weapons development.
Enriched uranium can be used as fuel for civilian reactors but it can also be used in the manufacturing of nuclear bombs.
'A Serious Escalation'
Western countries say Tehran’s move is a breach of the 2004 Paris agreement, under which Tehran voluntarily suspended all uranium-enrichment-related activities for the duration of talks with the so-called EU-3 of France, Britain, and Germany.
The White House on 10 January condemned Iran’s move and said the country was risking “a serious escalation” in the nuclear row with the West.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan warned that if Tehran fails to abide by its international obligations there is no other choice but to refer the matter to the UN Security Council.
"If Iran continues on this path and we realize that the negotiations have run their course, I think the international community is prepared to move to the next step," McClellan said.
'A Serious Situation'
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he will meet his French and German counterparts on 12 January to consider their response to Tehran’s decision. Straw said taking the issue to the Security Council will be on the agenda for discussion.
"This creates a serious situation for the international community," Straw said. "As President Chirac has said, this is a 'serious error' by Iran and it is one that we, internationally, have to consider."
An Emergency Meeting?
Agencies report that European diplomats have said they would seek an emergency meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors as early as next week.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier raised doubts on 10 January over the future of Iran-EU nuclear negotiations and said the EU-3 would decide whether there was any point in holding further talks with Tehran on a diplomatic compromise.
The next talks have been scheduled for 18 January in Vienna.
The European Union said Iran's moves were "continuously eroding international confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.”
Russia, which is building Iran’s first nuclear reactor, in Bushehr, also expressed disappointment about Tehran’s decision.
Russia and Iran are due to hold further talks in February on a compromise deal proposed by Russia that could put an end to the dispute over Iran's enrichment activities. Under the proposal Iran would enrich uranium on Russian territory, not on its own soil.
IAEA Director el-Baradei also said in a 10 January statement that he is "seriously concerned" by Iranian moves, pointing out that the IAEA had not yet clarified the nature of Iran's nuclear program.
Despite the international condemnation, Iran today remained defiant. Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said Tehran will not give up its nuclear program. “The huge wave of protests just reflects the imperialistically oriented Western will to deprive the Third World of progress," he said.
Tehran insists its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes. But the United States accuses Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons.