TEHRAN, Iran – Iran told the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency Tuesday it planned to resume nuclear fuel research after a 2 1/2 -year hiatus, issuing a fresh challenge to Western nations concerned that Tehran is trying to build an atomic weapon.
International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei said it was important that Tehran “maintains its suspension of all enrichment-related activity” as a way of reducing international suspicions about its nuclear plans.
Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said research would “resume in cooperation and coordination with the IAEA in the next few days,” adding that it would “have little to do with the production of nuclear fuel.”
Beyond that, he would not specify what type of research Tehran planned but said its nuclear program had suffered significantly during the research suspension.
Iran has said it remains determined, at some point, to resume uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear weapons.
The Tuesday announcement, while vague, was certain to raise further concerns in the United States and among its European allies who believe Iran wants to build a nuclear arsenal. Tehran says its nuclear program is for electricity generation.
The Iranian mission to the IAEA said Tehran has decided to resume from Feb. 9 research and development “on the peaceful nuclear energy program which has been suspended,” ElBaradei told the agency’s board.
The United States later warned Iran against pursuing new nuclear research. “Our view is that if Iran takes any further enrichment-related steps, the international community will have to consider additional measures to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
A European diplomat accredited to the agency said it was too early to evaluate whether it would scuttle talks planned for later this month.
The EU has said a resumption of work on the program would revive attempts to take Iran to the U.N. Security Council for violating the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
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