Iran warns that it will stop nuclear cooperation
TEHRAN - Iran's top leader warned Sunday that Tehran will end cooperation with the UN nuclear agency if it makes excessive demands that undermine the country's nuclear program.
Although Iran agreed last month to allow unfettered inspections of its nuclear facilities, hard-liners have pressured the government not to make further concessions.
"If parties to the talks with us or centers of global power come up with excessive demands and we feel that our interests and values are harmed, we won't hesitate to end this trend (of cooperation)," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.
"Peaceful nuclear technology is our legitimate right and no country and no organization can deprive us of this right, including the right for production of our own nuclear fuel," Khamenei told a large group of Iran's military brass and government officials after hosting a fast-breaking party. His comments were broadcast by state-run television.
Iran pledged last month to suspend uranium enrichment and sign an additional protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty allowing unfettered inspections of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Iran also handed over to the IAEA a dossier on its nuclear programs, effectively meeting an Oct. 31 deadline to prove its nuclear program is peaceful.
IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei told CNN on Sunday that the agency was in the process of verifying the declaration and said they were making "good and steady progress" with Iran.
If the IAEA decides Iran has not proven its peaceful nuclear intentions, it could refer Iran to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions. For now, international pressure on Iran has eased, with focus shifting from Friday's deadline to a Nov. 20 IAEA board of governors meeting.
But the Iranian government has faced growing hard-line pressure not to make further compromises. On Friday thousands of hard-liners rallied in several cities against the government's decision to cooperate with the IAEA, warning that a signature for the additional protocol will prompt nationwide street protests.
The United States accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and has pressed for the IAEA to declare Iran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Washington, though, does not believe Iran has yet made nuclear weapons, citing a lack of fissile material - either enriched uranium or plutonium. Iranian officials say nuclear weapons have no place in their defense strategy.
"What happened (Iran's decision to cooperate) was correct and a policy to foil the conspiracy hatched by the U.S. and the Zionists," Khamenei said.
Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, said he will, however, intervene to stop the Iranian government from making decisions he may consider as inappropriate.
"So far, nothing has been done against our principles. Wherever I feel that a step has been taken against the directions and goals of the establishment, I will stop it," he said.
Khamenei said Iran won't back down on seeking nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and vowed the country will finally produce fuel for its future nuclear reactors.
Iran has said its decision to suspend uranium enrichment will be temporary and Iran won't give up its goal to develop a complete nuclear fuel cycle, from mining its own uranium to enriching the ore, without having to rely on any other country.
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