NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION PART 1: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Iran backs down on uranium enrichment
, December 4, 2004
Under massive pressure from West European countries and the United States, Iran has agreed to suspend "temporarily" its uranium enrichment program which Western nations believe is being used to produce highly enriched uranium which could be used in nuclear weapons.
Iran had maintained that the purpose of its nuclear program is the generation of power - any other use being a violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which it is a signatory.
It claims that nuclear power is necessary for its booming population and rapidly industrialising nation, and, despite large oil reserves, it regularly imports gasoline and electricity. It continues to argue that its valuable oil should be used for high-value products, not simple electricity generation.
However, the particular technology employed can also be used to produce highly-enriched uranium, which can produce nuclear weapons.
Iranian emigré organisations have repeatedly warned the US and the European powers that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program.
The issue came to a head late last year, when the US said Teheran must be "held accountable" for allegedly seeking to build nuclear arms in violation of its agreements. Iran heatedly denied this, but refused to permit American inspection of its facilities.
In June last year, Mohamed El-Baradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declares that "Iran failed to report certain nuclear materials and activities" and requested "co-operative actions" from Iran.
The IAEA sealed the Iranian enrichment facilities, pending clarification of their roles, while the IAEA inspected all known Iranian nuclear facilities, but found that none were involved in nuclear weapons development.
Last July, Iran broke the seals on the plants, and announced that it would resume uranium enrichment.
In October, the European Union offered Iran civilian nuclear technology in exchange for Iran terminating its uranium enrichment program permanently. Iran rejects this outright.
At that stage, the US has proposed taking Iran to the UN Security Council, which has power to invoke sanctions, or take other action against Iran.