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Iran announces resumption of nuclear research


TEHRAN/MOSCOW/BEIJING, January 10 (RIA Novosti) - Iran officially announced Tuesday that it was resuming nuclear research after a moratorium of two years.

The deputy head of Iran's atomic energy agency, Mohammad Saidi, said the move had been coordinated with IAEA inspectors.

According to Saidi, Tehran draws a distinction between research work and the nuclear fuel production process, which remains subject to a moratorium in the country. In addition, the official expressed the hope that Iran and European countries would resolve doubts regarding the nuclear fuel issue.

Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, last week that it would start practical work on the creation of nuclear fuel technologies, which was suspended two years ago after negotiations with the EU trio of France, Germany and Britain to consolidate the international community's faith in its nuclear program.

The IAEA confirmed that Iran had removed the seals from its nuclear facilities in Natanz, which is 250 kilometers (150 miles) south of Tehran and 1,700km (about 1,000 miles) east of Israeli territory. Israel and other nations, including the United States, have long suspected Iran of developing a secret weapons program and the former has threatened to destroy the Natanz facilities.

The charged atmosphere has not been helped by anti-Israeli remarks made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who at the end of last year called for Israel to be "wiped from the face of the map," and then suggested it be moved to either Europe or North America. He also said the Holocaust was a myth.

However, in what could be a bid to ease tension, the Iranian Embassy in Russia said Tuesday that all nuclear research activities would comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other official said they would be carried out under the supervision of the IAEA. The embassy said that article 4 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty recognized that every signatory that did not possess nuclear weapons had the right to conduct peaceful nuclear research and obliged other parties to render assistance.

The embassy stressed that to improve the atmosphere of trust in its nuclear program, Iran had voluntarily assumed the moratorium on uranium enrichment and research and development in this field, which had inflicted enormous losses on the country and left many scientists and researchers jobless.

The statement said that Iran was ready to continue work to make its nuclear program more transparent and discuss mechanisms to overcome difficulties over uranium enrichment in Iran and ensure trust in Iran's adherence to peaceful aims through talks.

However, EU representatives said the resumption of uranium enrichment activities would jeopardize Iran's talks with the European Union, which are scheduled to take place in mid-January. EU High Commissioner for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said the situation was serious, adding that it was necessary to convince Tehran to resume the talks.

In turn, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia, which has up until now consistently backed Iran's right to develop nuclear power and is building an $800-million plant in the Iranian city of Bushehr, was concerned by Iran's intention to resume uranium enrichment activities.

"We are concerned by Iran's recent announcement of its intention to resume uranium enrichment in the near future in spite of the moratorium drawn up between Iran and European countries," Lavrov said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

"We are taking proactive efforts in our contacts with the Iranian side to maintain the moratorium during the talks [between Iran and the European trio]," he said.

He said Russian and Iranian deputy foreign ministers and deputy heads of the two nations' security councils had discussed proposals made by Moscow to carry out uranium enrichment activities in Russia for Iranian needs under the supervision of the IAEA.

Lavrov said "these proposals had been backed by all the interested sides, including the U.S., EU, China and other countries."

Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said China expected Iran and the European Union to continue talks over the former's controversial nuclear programs.

A ministry spokesman said China was ready to help talks between the EU and Iran and that the Iranian nuclear issue should be resolved within the framework of the IAEA.

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