Iran has said it will resume its nuclear research activities next week, despite western opposition. The EU and the United States are demanding that Iran continue to suspend all enrichment-related activities.
Protests in Vienna last year against Iran's nuclear program did nothing to influence Tehran
France has called on Iran to reverse its decision to restart nuclear research after a two-year suspension. France, along with Britain and Germany, has led European Union negotiations with Iran aimed at curbing its nuclear program to ensure it cannot be used to produce weapons.
"We would like Iran to abide by the suspension of all activities related to enrichment and reprocessing, which includes centrifuges and research," France's foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said.
Iran's decision to resume nuclear fuel research despite western opposition was "not negotiable," the country's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said Wednesday. The deputy head of Iran's atomic energy agency, Mohammad Saidi, announced the day before that his country would resume nuclear fuel research activities beginning Jan. 9, 2006.
Larijani said that "research has its own path, and has nothing to do with the industrial production of fuel."
But this distinction is not accepted by the EU and the United States. They are demanding that Iran continue its suspension of all its enrichment-related activities, whether they have a scientific or industrial objective.
Search for nature of Iran 's nuclear research
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna confirmed Iran had informed the agency that it would take up research and development again on what it termed its "peaceful nuclear energy program," the IAEA said in a statement.
The Secretariat said the IAEA is now seeking clarification from Iran as to the implications of its decision.
IAEA's Mohamed ElBaradei received the Nobel peace prize in 2005
The IAEA said its Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, recalled "the importance placed by the IAEA Board that Iran maintains its suspension of all enrichment-related activities as a key confidence-building measure."
It said ElBaradei called on Iran "to take the steps the IAEA requires to resolve outstanding issues regarding the nature of Iran's nuclear program."
Mattei said Tehran should respond to the IAEA's concerns.
"It is up to the Iranians to adopt a constructive attitude and to make the necessary gestures to establish trust," Mattei said. Iran had to show that its nuclear program was for exclusively civilian purposes.
Iranian nuclear enrichment on Russian soil?
Mattei repeated France's support of a Russian proposition aimed at breaking a deadlock in the EU-Iran negotiations. Moscow has suggested that the controversial uranium enrichment process be carried out in Russia instead of in Iran.
Russia is helping build the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran.
"These Russian ideas respond to the worries of the international community in terms of proliferation and, at the same time, give Iran the means to develop a pacific nuclear program," Mattei said. "One of the strong points of the Russian proposition in our view is that the enrichment activities would not be taking place on Iranian territory."
A delegation from Moscow will visit Tehran on Saturday.
However, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Iran would not consider the offer unless it acknowledged the country's right to conduct uranium enrichment operations in Iran, so far the key sticking point in negotiations with the European Union.
Iran is set to have new talks with EU negotiators on Jan. 18. But both sides have acknowledged that wide differences remain.