Iran to remove seals at atomic plant

Iran is to remove seals placed by the UN nuclear watchdog at a key atomic plant, allowing it to operate at full capacity and raising the stakes in a stand-off with the international community.

    Iran says it will resume uranium conversion activities

    The move, on Wednesday, comes as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meets in an emergency session to decide on a resolution after Iran resumed uranium conversion activities at the plant on the outskirts of Isfahan.

    "The rest of the seals will be removed today and the activities will resume," Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's atomic energy organisation told state television.

    Iranian officials are expected to remove the seals placed on machinery by the IAEA in November when Iran suspended conversion, but under the watchful eye of the UN body's inspectors.

    Throughout the current escalation of tensions, Iran was emphasising it was resuming conversion activities in concert with the IAEA, whose inspectors have installed surveillance equipment to monitor the process.

    Symbolic value

    The breaking of the seals, as well as having important symbolic value, also means the Isfahan plant is able to work at full capacity.

    President Ahmadinejad said the
    EU offer was insulting to Iranians

    The resumption of conversion had until now only been partial as Iran was waiting for the inspectors to finish installing surveillance cameras.

    Conversion turns uranium ore or yellowcake into a feed gas for enriching uranium, which can be the fuel for reactors or the explosive core of atom bombs.

    Iran's decision to resume conversion activities sparked  concern in European capitals that have been locked in months of tortuous talks to persuade Iran to renounce ultra-sensitive nuclear activities.

    However, Iran emphasises that its right to the nuclear fuel cycle is legally enshrined under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its suspension of conversion was merely a goodwill gesture during talks with the Europeans.

    The country has been under investigation for more than two years by the IAEA, which has accused it of hiding controversial nuclear work but has yet to find any proof of a weapons programme.

    More talks likely

    President Mahmood Ahmadinejad has described the offer of nuclear, commercial and political cooperation made on Friday by the Europeans in exchange for Iran renouncing the activities as an "insult to the Iranian people".

    "The Europeans talk as though the Iranian people were a backward people, as if they were still in the last century when they dominated our country," he added.

    "The Europeans talk as though the Iranian people were a backward people, as if they were still in the last century when they dominated our country"

    Mahmood Ahmadinejad,
    Iran's president

    But while Ahmadinejad's comments published on Tuesday appeared to confirm Western fears he will adopt a tough line on the nuclear issue, he also emphasised he was leaving the door open for more talks with the Europeans.

    Ahmadinejad has yet to appoint a new government, but one of the candidates for the post of foreign minister - parliamentary foreign affairs committee head Aleaddine Boroujerdi - made clear there was no going back from the move.

    The best guarantee that Iran's nuclear programme is peaceful is the "infallible watching of the IAEA cameras," he said. "I hope that the Europeans will also accept this reality."

    He added that the regime still had not made any decision on restarting Iran's uranium enrichment plant in the city of Natanz.

    Enrichment remains suspended, but officials emphasise this is only temporary.



    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.

    Pakistan's tribal areas: 'Neither faith nor union found'

    Pakistan's tribal areas: 'Neither faith nor union found'

    Residents of long-neglected northwestern tribal belt say incorporation into Pakistan has left them in a vacuum.