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Iran ends voluntary cooperation on nukes
Updated: 2006-02-06 06:45

Iran ended all voluntary cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency Sunday, saying it would start uranium enrichment and bar surprise inspections of its facilities after being reported to the Security Council over fears it is seeking an atomic bomb.

However, the Islamic republic left the door open for further negotiations over its nuclear program and, in an apparent softening of its position, said it was willing to discuss Moscow's proposal to shift large-scale enrichment operations to Russian territory in an effort to allay suspicions.

Iran ends voluntary cooperation on nukes
Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, speaks with media during a press conference in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Feb. 5 2006. [AP]

A day earlier, an Iranian official at the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in Vienna, Austria, said that proposal was "dead." The comment was made after the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors voted to report Iran to the council, which has the power to impose economic and political sanctions.

"The door for negotiations is still open," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Sunday.

But President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the West "can't do a thing" to stop Iran's progress.

"The era of coercion and domination has ended," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency. "Issue as many resolutions like this as you want and make yourself happy. You can't prevent the progress of the Iranian nation.

"In the name of the IAEA they want to visit all our nuclear facilities and learn our defense capabilities, but we won't allow them to do this."

Uranium enriched to a low degree can be used for nuclear reactors, while highly enriched uranium is suitable for warheads. Iran insists it only wants to generate electricity, but the United States and some of its allies contend Tehran is trying to build a weapon.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Sunday that Iran had ended all voluntary cooperation with the IAEA. The action, ordered by Ahmadinejad, was required by a law passed last year.

The announcement means Iran has resumed uranium enrichment and no longer will allow snap IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities, a voluntary measure it allowed in recent years in a goodwill gesture to build trust under a protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

"We do not have any obligation toward the additional protocol (anymore)," Mottaki said.

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