UN backs nuclear resolution

“The (International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA) has spoken with one voice and the secretary general expects its resolution to be implemented,” UN chief Kofi Annan said.

But Tehran has dismissed the European-sponsored resolution as ‘absurd’ and ‘unacceptable’.

“Iran will not bend. Iran will be nuclear fuel producer and supplier within a decade,” Iranian negotiator Cyrus Nasseri said.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi, speaking from the Iranian capital, said the resolution had been “adopted under pressure from the United States and its allies.”

Washington has been pushing hard for Iran to bring its nuclear programme to an end, after the country kept its activities secret for almost two decades until 2002.

The United States has repeatedly accused Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.

“I think the message should be that the international community doesn’t like what it’s seeing… that they (the Iranians) are being given an opportunity to make things right and that that’s an opportunity they should take,” US Deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said.

“And if Iran doesn’t take the steps described in the resolution, we would expect that the next step would be referral to the (UN) Security Council,” Mr Ereli added.

Should Iran be referred to the council, the possibility of international sanctions could follow.

Non-aligned members of the IAEA, though, have already indicated their opposition to stronger action, preferring that “all problems should be resolved through dialogue and peaceful means.”

Tehran has insisted that its operations are purely for peaceful energy production and is well within its rights under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to do so.

Iran voluntarily agreed to halt its nuclear fuel cycle work in November 2004 for the duration of talks aimed at guaranteeing Iran maintains a strictly peaceful nuclear programme in return for trade, security and technological benefits.

Mr Nasseri said that “operations in Isfahan’s (conversion facility) will continue under full-scope safeguards” and that Iran would not resume work at its uranium enrichment facility in Natanz “to keep the door open for negotiations.”

IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei said there was a “window of opportunity” for more talks between Iran and the European Union, which has been leading negotiations.

According to the IAEA chief, the two sides are due to meet in Paris at the end of the month.

Mr ElBaradei, who said the “jury is still out” as to whether there were “undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran”, is due to submit a new report on the country’s nuclear programme on September 3.