Iran: Uranium Enrichment to Continue

Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday that his country will resume uranium (searchenrichment once its problems with the U.N. atomic watchdog are resolved and warned European partners that it could end nuclear cooperation if they fail to support Tehran.

Undeclared uranium enrichment was one of the reasons behind an International Atomic Energy Agency (searchprobe of Iran's nuclear facilities.

"It's our legitimate right to enrich uranium," Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi (searchtold reporters after a Cabinet meeting in Tehran.

"We suspended uranium enrichment voluntarily and temporarily. Later, when our relations with the IAEA returns to normal, we will definitely resume (uranium) enrichment," Kharrazi said.

Also Wednesday, Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said Iran's defense industries were involved in producing nuclear centrifuges.

He said that the defense industries had produced the moderately efficient P-1 centrifuges, which Iran has acknowledged to have. It has denied having super-efficient P-2 centrifuges used in producing weapons-grade enriched uranium, but has acknowledged it had done research into the more advanced equipment.

"It is no secret. We have produced P-1, not P-2, contrary to U.S. allegations," Shamkhani said, when asked if the military was involved in any nuclear production.

"It's natural in the world that defense industries produce civilian parts. We in the defense industries produce parts for civilian planes, vehicle parts and even television sets," he said. "We have also produced some parts for Iran's nuclear energy program including P-1."

The IAEA is holding a meeting on Iran in Vienna, at which the United States had insisted that Iran be declared in breach of its international agreements, including uranium enrichment and plutonium processing. U.S. officials say those activities point to a nuclear weapons agenda.

The key meeting of the U.N. atomic agency moved closer to agreement Wednesday after the United States and key European powers agreed to praise Tehran's increased openness about its nuclear programs but criticize it for continuing to hide some suspicious activities.

In the draft, United States compromised with Britain, France and Germany to tone down criticism of Iran's continued nuclear secrecy and give some praise of Tehran's willingness to open its programs to outside perusal.

Kharrazi also warned that Iran could end nuclear cooperation, and called on its European partners to resist U.S. pressure at the Vienna meeting.

"We recommend the three European countries to remain committed to their obligations (toward Tehran) and resist U.S. pressures if they want the project of cooperation between Iran and them to lead to results," Kharrazi said.

He warned that Iran would stop cooperating with the three nations if they fail to support Iran.

"Cooperation is a two way street. If they don't fulfill their obligations, there is no reason for us to cooperate," he said.

The draft made available to The Associated Press noted "with the most serious concern" that past declarations made by Iran "did not amount to the correct, complete and final picture of Iran's past and present nuclear program."

It criticized Iran for "failing to resolve all questions" about uranium enrichment, which can be used to make weapons, saying it "deplores" this lapse.

Kharrazi accused the IAEA of giving in to U.S. pressure.

"The U.S. wants to use every opportunity to pressure Iran and pursues its own strategy. Despite the fact that we have offered maximum cooperation with the IAEA ... unfortunately, the agency is sometimes influenced by the U.S., while it should maintain its technical and professional identity," Kharrazi said.

The United States insists Iran wants to make nuclear weapons and wanted the meeting to condemn it for not fully living up to pledges to reveal all past and present nuclear activities. But the Europeans wanted to focus on Iranian cooperation that began after the discovery last year that Tehran had plans to enrich uranium and secretly conducted other tests with possible weapons applications over nearly two decades.

An enrichment program would be necessary for producing nuclear weapons, which Iran repeatedly has said is not its intent. Low enriched uranium is used as a fuel for electricity generating in nuclear power plants.