Iran defies EU and prepares to restart suspended nuclear activity

TIRED of waiting for European negotiators to make a proposal in return for a nuclear freeze, Iran yesterday warned it is preparing to restart some of its suspended atomic activities.

The statement triggered alarms in Paris, London and Vienna, with a British official calling it a “dangerous step” and a European diplomat saying the EU was just days away from making Tehran a “generous” offer, including nuclear fuel, technology and other aid.

The European offer would also include “security guarantees” that Iran won’t be invaded if it permanently halts uranium enrichment and related activities, European and Iranian officials confirmed.

But a senior European diplomat accredited to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency qualified the security pledge, saying nobody could give a “100% guarantee” against invasion.

Iran’s nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani held out the possibility of a coming “understanding” with the EU negotiators, but he warned Iran was readying to restart uranium reprocessing work at its Isfahan Nuclear Conversion Facility, according to a report by state Islamic Republic News Agency.

The Isfahan plant converts uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium gas, the feedstock for enrichment.

Highly-enriched uranium can be used for making nuclear bombs; at low levels it is used as nuclear fuel.

Iran’s top officials were deciding last night whether to restart the plant, said Ali Agha Mohammadi, a spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.

But the IAEA official in Vienna said the Europeans would present their proposal to Iran next week. The proposal was not yet finished, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

If Iran restarts the Isfahan facility, the Europeans would call an emergency IAEA boardmeeting, the IAEA official said. Such a meeting is likely to set a deadline for the Iranians to “see the error of their ways”. If such a deadline were not met, the Europeans, with US support, would push to refer Iran to the UN Security Council.

President Mohammad Khatami, will be replaced on August 6 by conservative president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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