Iran stands by threat to end UN inspections

IRAN will carry through its threat to end tough UN nuclear inspections and resume ultra-sensitive uranium enrichment on an industrial scale, if it is hauled before the UN Security Council, a national security spokesman told AFP.

Hossein Entezami also dismissed the possibility of Israel launching a military strike against Iran, and labelled French president Jacques Chirac a danger to world peace for threatening to use nuclear arms against state sponsors of terrorism. "If our case goes to the UN Security Council, and regardless of what decisions are then taken, the government will . . . resume all nuclear activities which have been voluntary suspended," he said yesterday.

This, he said, would include "enrichment on an industrial scale and an end to the application of the additional protocol" to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which provides the International Atomic Energy Agency with greater inspection powers.

"We are under pressure from certain groups inside the country to leave the NPT and the IAEA altogether, but the government is insisting on a logical and peaceful solution."

Iran has repeatedly threatened such action which would be certain to cause a sharp escalation of the crisis in line with a law passed by deputies in the conservative-held parliament in November. But now the prospect of the crisis over Iran's nuclear programme ending up in front of the Security Council looks greater than ever, with Western powers furious at the country for resuming enrichment research work earlier this month.

Uranium enrichment can make reactor fuel, but the technology is dual-use and would give Iran the strategic option to enrich to levels required for making the core of a weapon.

Tehran insists such work is legal, given it has signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and has branded atomic weapons "un-Islamic".

But Britain, France and Germany have called an urgent meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board for February 2, and are confident of getting a referral even though they are still struggling to get Russia and China on board.

Senior officials in Israel, which views Iran as an existential threat, have also been openly mulling a military option.

"If any government, notably the Israeli one, wants to act in an intelligent way it would not do such a thing," said Entezami. "Iran has the capacity to respond to any strikes. The Israelis only say such things for domestic political reasons and the enormous problems they have at the moment."

Entezami, the spokesman for Iran's Supreme National Security Council, also lashed out at Chirac's threat of a nuclear response to terror strikes.

"Using the atomic bomb or threatening to use it is the language of the last century. The art of having the bomb is not using it . . . because, if everyone who had one used it, the world would be blown up several times over," he said. "This endangers world security."

According to Entezami, pushing for Iran's referral to the Security Council would result in a "lose-lose" situation.

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