German Foreign Minister Steinmeier sharply criticized Iran on Monday after the Islamic republic decided to resume its nuclear fuel research. France joined in the criticism.
Iran has not said exactly what activities it will resume
Iran's decision to resume nuclear research marks a breach of its international commitments and "cannot remain without consequence," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Monday.
Steinmeier said Berlin would this week discuss Iran's latest step with France and Britain, the other two countries that form the European troika negotiating with Tehran on its controversial nuclear program.
"This marks a breach of Tehran's commitments ... It cannot remain without consequence," for the troika, Steinmeier said on the sidelines of a meeting of the German cabinet in Genshagen, outside Berlin. "We have had two very, very grave signals from the Iranian government over the past weekend," he added.
France urges "immediate" reversal
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Monday urged Iran to instantly reverse its decision to resume highly sensitive nuclear activities, and voiced France's grave concern at the development.
"We urge Iran to immediately and unconditionally reverse its
decision," Douste-Blazy told a joint press conference with EU
foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who warned that the situation was "serious."
The minister said that France, which along with Britain and Germany has been leading tortuous negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program, was "very seriously concerned" by Tehran's decision.
Talks broke off
An Iranian government spokesman confirmed on Monday that the Islamic republic would resume nuclear research activities the same day.
"Iran will today resume nuclear fuel research as scheduled," government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham told reporters.
Steinmeier says that consequences are necessary
The announcement came after talks between Russia and Iran on a proposed compromise to end the row over uranium enrichment broke off without result on Sunday. They were due to resume in a month.
Germany's Steinmeier said he planned to speak to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later Monday about Tehran's decision.
Blowing hot and cold
Moscow has been proposing that Tehran carry out uranium enrichment on Russian territory to allay Western fears that the technology could allow Iran to produce a nuclear bomb. Both the European Union and the United States have backed the proposal in principle.
But in recent weeks, Iranian officials have blown hot and cold about the proposed compromise, first suggesting that they might consider it and then insisting that they would do so only if any deal explicitly recognized its right to carry out enrichment on Iranian soil.
Europe has warned that a resumption of research at facilities in Iran, which would end a two-year suspension, would jeopardize future talks on ending the crisis with the West over Iran's nuclear activities. The talks were broken off last August.
Our of patience
Khamenei says Iran has a right to nuclear technology
Germany, France and Britain have been trying for over two years to persuade Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program, which could be used to make atom bomb fuel. The EU and the United States suspect Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Iran strongly denies.
Iran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful and that it has the right to enrich uranium on its own soil.
"Iran will never abandon its legitimate right to nuclear technology," Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iranian state television.
EU and US officials have said a resumption of research could lead to Tehran being referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. And International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said the world was out of patience.
"I am running out of patience, the international community is running out of patience," he told Sky Television. "The credibility of the verification process is at stake, and I'd like, come March, which is my next report, to be able to clarify these issues."