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Iran threatens to resume uranium enrichment

VIENNA, AUSTRIA — VIENNA, Austria - Iran threatened yesterday to resume enrichment of uranium - a prerequisite for making nuclear weapons - if the International Atomic Energy Agency passes an expected resolution rebuking it for not cooperating.

Iran's president, Mohammad Khatami, said his country no longer had a "moral commitment" to suspend uranium enrichment, though he added that it had not made a decision to restart such work.

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"If the draft resolution proposed by the European countries is approved by the IAEA, Iran will reject it," Khatami said in Tehran. "If Europe has no commitment toward Iran, then Iran will not have a commitment toward Europe."

Khatami's statement deepened the rift between Iran and the atomic energy agency, a U.N. watchdog group, as its 35-member governing board was close to passing a toughly worded resolution deploring Tehran's lack of cooperation with its investigation of the country's nuclear program.

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The United States accused Iranian officials of trying to push board members into softening the criticism.

"They're trying to intimidate the board and individual states," said the U.S. ambassador to the agency, Kenneth C. Brill. "It makes us question their claims that they have nothing to hide."

Iran's representatives spent the day scrambling to delete a provision calling for the cancellation of Tehran's plans to build a heavy-water research reactor and to start operations at a uranium conversion plant.

The resolution, drafted by Britain, France and Germany, said the projects raised suspicions that Iran would not suspend uranium enrichment, as promised in an agreement last October.

The head of Iran's delegation, Hossein Mousavian, insisted that the projects were outside the scope of the agreement and that Iran had met its obligations to the Europeans, as well as to the agency, which has been scrutinizing Iran's nuclear program for more than two years.

The resolution, Mousavian warned, would undermine relations between Iran and the agency, particularly among hard-line members of Iran's parliament.

The Iranians stopped short of refusing access to U.N. inspectors or withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.


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