Since late 2003 the EU Three have been pressing Tehran to give up its research and development of nuclear fuel for its energy plants because the same process can be used to produce material for nuclear weapons. In November 2004 Tehran agreed to temporarily freeze uranium enrichment, when threatened by Paris, Berlin, and London with Security Council action.
German foreign minister Frank Steinmeier said January 12 that talks between the three European powers and Tehran are at a dead end.
Iran is ready to resume the research activities, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Asefi stated. It is our right as [much as] other members of the Nonproliferation Treaty. Iran should not be exempted…. We are doing research and development according to the agency's regulations as well as NPTs [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treatys]. We believe the western countries should not seek [a] double standard in this respect. The activities will be under supervision of the agency, therefore there is nothing to be worried about.
In the presence of inspectors from the IAEA, the Iranian government removed UN seals from equipment at the nuclear plant at Natanz, the center of Iran's uranium enrichment program. According to the New York Times, the IAEA later released a statement saying that Iranian officials told inspectors that they plan to start up a small-scale centrifuge and do research in which uranium gas would be introduced. Centrifuges produce a cascade of reactions that enrich uranium to levels at which it can be used for reactors or, if enriched to a far higher level, for weapons.
Under the NPT, which Tehran has signed, the imperialist powers in Washington, London, and Paris, as well as Moscow and Beijing, are allowed to have nuclear weapons, but other nations are barred from acquiring them. The Israeli government, however, which is known to have a nuclear arsenal, has been permitted by the imperialists to acquire whatever nuclear technology it wishes and has never signed the NPT.
The treaty also subjects governmentsprimarily those of semicolonial countriesto a range of requirements, including regular reports and inspections of their nuclear research and energy facilities. None of the activities Iran is known to be pursuing are outlawed under the accord.
The U.S. government has consistently accused Iran of developing nuclear power in order to build atomic bombs. Tehran has denied this, stating it needs nuclear power to develop the country and noting that semicolonial countries are being denied equal access to energy.
Condoleezza Rice, U.S. secretary of state, supported the ministers action and their call for the IAEA to meet quickly to discuss Iran. If referred to the Security Council, she continued, there was a menu of possibilities.
The governments of the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain hold the five permanent seats on the UN Security Council. Until recently it was expected Russia and China would oppose bringing Iran before the Security Council. However, an intense campaign by the imperialist powers has begun to bring both Moscow and Beijing into line. Russia and China joined the three EU members and the United States in sending their own protest notes to Tehran.
Ekho Moskvy radio quoted Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov saying the latest moves by Iran, a big energy partner of Russia, posed an acute problem. Constant statement(s) by the Iranian leadership concerning Israel aggravate the situation further, he continued. All this adds arguments for those who believe that Iran can be dealt with only through the U.N. Security Council.
Our priority is not our bilateral relations and investment in Iran or our benefits from trade with Iran. Under current circumstances our ultimate task is not to allow the breach of (the) nonproliferation system, he was quoted as saying.
Interfax quoted Lavrov as calling on Iran to resume its moratorium on uranium enrichment. In the absence of such a decision, we will find it very difficult to continue our efforts, Lavrov added, referring to Moscow's support to Iran.
The Bush administration said in late December it had imposed sanctions on nine foreign companies for selling Iran hardware or ingredients for weapons of mass destruction. These included six Chinese firms, two from India, and one from Austria.
The sanctions, which will last one year, were imposed under the Iran Nonproliferation Act approved by Congress five years ago. The named companies are barred from doing business with the U.S. government or from buying high-tech U.S. products.