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Iran threatens full-scale enrichment
Updated: 2006-01-24 07:17

Iran upped the ante Monday in its nuclear standoff, warning that it will immediately begin developing a full-scale uranium enrichment program if it is referred to the U.N. Security Council.

The message was delivered by Ali Asghar Soltaniyeh, Iran's senior envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Enrichment can be used in electricity production but it is also a pathway to making nuclear weapons.

Iran threatens full-scale enrichment
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, meeting with Qatar's First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabar ai-Thani, in Tehran, Iran on Monday Jan. 23, 2006. [AP] 

Negotiations intensified ahead of a Feb. 2 meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board to decide on referral.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, planned to travel to Moscow on Tuesday to discuss a proposal to have Iran's uranium enriched in Russia, then returned to Iran for use in the country's reactors — a compromise that would provide more oversight and ease tensions.

A European official said the two sides would discuss the possibility of allowing Iran to conduct small-scale experimental enrichment itself if it agreed to move all industrial production to Russia.

The official, who demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing confidential details of the negotiations, refused to say whether Britain, France and Germany — the key European nations behind the U.S.-supported push for referral — would tolerate such a deal.

Those European nations and EU representatives also intensified diplomatic efforts, with diplomats telling the AP they were sending senior representatives to Brazil, Russia, China and Indonesia to persuade the key IAEA board members to drop their opposition to referral.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday called for a step-by-step diplomatic approach in the standoff, saying she wants "the largest majority possible" for whatever course of action is decided upon by the IAEA.

While the Europeans believe they have enough votes to get Iran hauled before the council Feb. 2, they want broad support, including from key developing countries as well as Russia and China.

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