Iran to Expand Nuclear Activities in Defiance of U.N. Security Council

Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Sunday that Iran will expand — not suspend — uranium enrichment activities, in defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution setting an August 31 deadline for the Islamic Republic to halt nuclear activities or face the threat of political and economic sanctions.

Ali Larijani called the U.N. Security Council resolution issued last week "illegal" and said Iran won't respect the deadline. "We reject this resolution," he told reporters.

"We will expand nuclear activities where required. It includes all nuclear technology including the string of centrifuges," Larijani said, referring to the centrifuges Iran uses to enrich uranium.

He said Iran had not violated any of its obligations under the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty, and that the U.N. had no right to require it suspend enrichment.

"We won't accept suspension," he said.

Larijani said the Security Council resolution was "contrary" to a package of Western incentives offered in June to persuade Tehran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities.

He confirmed that Iran would formally respond on Aug. 22 to the incentives package offered in June.

Iran has said it will never give up its right to produce nuclear fuel, but has indicated it may temporarily suspend large-scale activities to ease tensions with the West.

Larijani said the world should blame the U.S. and its allies for acting against their proposed package and seeking to deny Iran of its legitimate right under NPT to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel.

The United States has accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran maintains its program is peaceful and aims at generating electricity, not bombs.

In February, Iran for the first time produced a batch of low-enriched uranium, using a cascade of 164 centrifuges. The process of uranium enrichment can be used to generate electricity or to create an atomic weapon, depending on the level of enrichment.

Iran said it plans to install 3,000 centrifuges at its enrichment plant in Natanz, central Iran, by the last quarter of 2006. Industrial production of enriched uranium in Natanz would require 54,000 centrifuges.

Hard-liners within Iran's ruling Islamic establishment have called on the government to withdraw from the NPT in response to the U.N. resolution, but the government has not heeded the call.

Withdrawal from the treaty could end all international oversight of Iran's nuclear program.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, routinely inspects Iran's nuclear facilities and has said there was no evidence proving that Iran's nuclear program has diverted toward weapons.