Iranian President Mohammad Khatami called on the international community Wednesday to recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium, again insisting Tehran will pursue a nuclear program that some — including the United States — suspect is aimed at developing weapons.
Khatami warned that Iran would continue its nuclear program even if it meant ending cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
“We clearly demand that our right to enrichment be recognized by the international community because it is our legal right and in accordance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” Khatami said after a Cabinet meeting Wednesday. “If it does so, it will open the way for greater cooperation.”
Iranian officials have denounced demands by the IAEA that Iran cease its uranium enrichment program, a process that can produce fuel for both nuclear power stations and nuclear weapons, as “illegal.”
U.S. sees weapons program
The United States — which once labeled Iran part of an “axis of evil” with North Korea and prewar Iraq — and many nonproliferation experts believe Iran is covertly developing nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is strictly for generating electricity.
Khatami said Tuesday his nation “won’t go for nuclear weapons at all.”
Iran, as an IAEA member, allows supervision to ensure its nuclear programs are peaceful. But under international pressure last year, Iran agreed to a more aggressive inspection regime under an additional protocol to the nonproliferation treaty.
U.N. agency demands freeze
The IAEA demanded last weekend that Iran freeze uranium enrichment and all related activities, such as building centrifuges and reprocessing uranium, within two months. Failure to do so could prompt the IAEA to pass Iran’s nuclear file to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions.
Shrugging off IAEA demands, Iran said Tuesday it started converting at least 40 tons of raw uranium into hexaflouride gas, part of the technology that could be used to make atomic weapons.
A U.S. State Department spokesman said Tuesday there was “no peaceful justification” for Iran’s conversion of raw uranium into nuclear weapons ingredients.
Iran’s secretly developed enrichment program went undetected for 18 years until it was unmasked almost two years ago.