Iran re-started activities at a uranium conversion plant today following the installation of surveillance cameras by the United Nations atomic watchdog but “regrettably” prior to completion of their testing, the agency entrusted with curbing the spread of nuclear weapons reported.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan has spoken to the newly-elected President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about the country’s nuclear programme and the negotiations with the EU-3 (France, Germany and the United Kingdom), according to a statement issued by a UN spokesman in New York.
He urged restraint and encouraged the continuation of the ongoing process. He hopes both sides will remain engaged in search of an acceptable solution,” the statement said.
Iran voluntarily suspended operations last year of all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities during negotiations with European countries on its nuclear programme, which it insists is for peaceful energy production but which some countries, including the United States, say is part of an effort to produce nuclear weapons.
Last week it announced that it was resuming activities at the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) in Isfahan. Enriched uranium can be used for peaceful purposes such as generating energy or for making nuclear weapons.
Today, UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei informed members of the Vienna-based agency’s Board of Governors that Iran started to feed uranium ore concentrate (UOC) into the first part of the process line at the UCF.
“This activity was commenced following the installation today by the IAEA of cameras covering the input stage of the UOC process line, but regrettably prior to completion of the in situ testing of the cameras, which normally takes 24 hours following installation,” IAEA said in a statement. “It should be noted that the sealed parts of the process line remain intact.”
The cameras and seals are part of the safeguards under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Iran has signed, aimed at ensuring that materials and equipment are not diverted to weapons production.
Iran's nuclear programme has been a matter of concern since 2003, when the IAEA determined that the country had for almost two decades concealed its nuclear activities in breach of its NPT obligations.
The IAEA Board is meeting in Vienna tomorrow at the request of the EU-3, which have been seeking a diplomatic solution to the issue. Last week the three said any resumption would breach agreements Iran had reached with them as well as the IAEA Board's resolution last November calling for a continued moratorium, and would end their negotiations.