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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Iran Plans to Expand Nuclear Activities

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Sunday that Iran will expand uranium enrichment, in defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution giving the Islamic Republic until Aug. 31 to halt the activity 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 contradicted a package of Western incentives offered in June to persuade Tehran to suspend its enrichment activities. He reiterated that Iran would formally respond to the incentives package on Aug. 22.

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

Larijani said the world should blame the United States and its allies for acting against their proposed package and seeking to deny Iran its rights under the NPT.

The United States has accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran maintains its program is peaceful and intended to generate electricity.

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 end of the year. 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.

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