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    Iran may resume nuclear work
    By Siavosh Ghazi and Farhad Pouladi
    July 31, 2005

    IRAN warned overnight it would resume sensitive nuclear work within days if the European Union failed to submit proposals aimed at ending a long-running crisis over its nuclear program.

    The move has dramatically raised the stakes in the standoff and risks seeing Iran hauled before the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, a persistent demand of the United States which accuses Iran of seeking atomic weapons.

    Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Iran would inform the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, of the resumption of some uranium conversion work, a key stage in the nuclear fuel cycle.

    "The time limit (on the suspension of such activities) has passed and public opinion cannot wait any longer," Asefi said.

    The conversion process, carried out in Iran at a facility in the central city of Isfahan, changes uranium ore into the uranium gas that is the feedstock for enrichment.

    Although Iran has currently frozen its enrichment work, chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani said Iran was capable of producing enriched uranium in a very short time if it came under attack.

    "As soon as we decide to begin enrichment, we will be capable of reaching the desired goal in a very short time and in case our nuclear installations were attacked militarily, we could pursue enrichment unencumbered," Rowhani said in a report to outgoing President Mohammad Khatami published by the official news agency IRNA.

    Iran agreed in November to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that makes fuel for civilian nuclear power plants but can also be the explosive core of atom bombs, during negotiations with the Europeans.

    The so-called EU-3 of Britain, France and Germany is preparing a package of trade, technology and security incentives in return for Iran guaranteeing its nuclear programme is peaceful.

    "If the Europeans submit their proposals, we will examine them, if not we will resume some of our activities in Isfahan tomorrow," nuclear negotiator Ali Agha Mohammadi said.

 
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