Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Iran threatens to pull out of nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent

Iran lashed out at international attempts to curb its nuclear ambitions today, threatening to pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and insisting that it would forge ahead with plans to step up uranium enrichment.
The chorus of fury came as world powers reacted with renewed concern at Iran’s announcement of plans to build ten new nuclear sites and Western leaders warned of imminent new sanctions to punish Tehran’s defiance.
Russia and China joined the United States, Britain, France and Germany in backing a rare official rebuke to Tehran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday over its concealment of the recently revealed Fordo enrichment plant on a heavily bunkered military base near the city of Qom.
Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said that the announcement of a vast new enrichment construction programme was meant as direct retaliation for its censure at the United Nations body, which also ordered it to cease construction work at Fordo. His remarks were to be the opening salvo in a hail of official invective against the atomic watchdog, ordinarily reserved for Western adversaries.

Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, accused the IAEA of implementing “the law of the jungle” by passing the resolution calling on Iran once again to halt enrichment. "This is an act of bullying,” Mr Mottaki told a joint press conference with Sergie Shmatko, the visiting Russian Energy Minister. “Today, we call it the law of the jungle. Such measures will destroy the very foundation of the UN Security Council and the IAEA.”
Iran has been ordered five times by the UN Security Council to suspend enrichment until it has satisfactorily answered questions about a suspected nuclear weapons programme.
Mr Mottaki said that enriching uranium was Iran’s right as it has been a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty for close to four decades. Ali Larijani, the influential conservative parliament speaker, went further, questioning Iran’s continued membership of the protocol, raising fears that it may be preparing to withdraw as North Korea did shortly before developing a bomb.
"I think they have completely made NPT useless," he told a press conference in Tehran. "What is this NPT which has become a one-sided tool ... to create a political atmosphere? We say that we want to carry out our activities under NPT and they must guarantee this ... that NPT regulations be properly applied and that they do not do indulge in any political interference."
Mr Salehi blamed Western powers for raising tensions after Iran’s announcement of plans to build ten new enrichment plants, far beyond its current capabilities or needs — civilian or military.
"We had no intention of building so many sites ... but apparently the West does not want to understand Iran's message of peace and the way they behaved persuaded the Government to pass a decree to build ten sites like Natanz.” Natanz is the industrial-scale enrichment plant currently monitored by inspectors.
Britain, France and Germany warned that Tehran would face more sanctions if it continued to defy world powers. "The priority always is to get the talks to work," said a spokesman for the Prime Minister in London.
"We would then review at the right moment, and maybe it's towards the end of this year, whether we pursue the second route of a dual-track policy which is obviously, you think about things like sanctions."
Guido Westerwelle, the German Foreign Minister, warned that "if Iran rejects the hand that has reached out, it must expect heavier sanctions."
But Mr Shmatko, on an official visit to Tehran to discuss the Russian-built civilian reactor there, sought to cool tempers and refocus attention on the diplomatic track.
"A constructive agreement between Tehran and five-plus-one [the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany] is of high importance and we do not want the thing to escalate at all," said Mr Shmatko. "I think there is still good scope to continue negotiations."