TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran will continue uranium reprocessing despite Europe’s threat to refer it to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions if it does not freeze the work within two weeks, a Foreign Ministry official said Sunday.

The Iranian defiance is the latest in its highly charged dispute with the international community over its contentious nuclear program, which the United States alleges is aimed at building nuclear weapons, claims which Tehran denies.

International attention is focused on the Uranium Conversion Facility in Isfahan in central Iran, where Tehran last month resumed activities related to the conversion of uranium concentrate ore – known as yellowcake – into hexaflouride gas, the feedstock for enrichment.

Uranium enrichment is an activity of even higher concern for the international community. Enriched to a low level, uranium can be used to produce nuclear fuel used to generate electricity. Further enrichment makes it suitable for use in nuclear weapons.

“The issue of Isfahan is a thing of the past,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters Sunday. “The era of threats to force Iran to give up its rights is over. We have said it and say it again, that threat and resorting to two-sided language won’t help Europe.”

Iran says it will not restart uranium enrichment for now in nearby Natanz, where it was suspended in 2003 under a deal with Europeans, but insists it will never again suspend uranium conversion in Isfahan.

Work restarted in Isfahan after Iran rejected a U.S.-backed European package of proposals calling on Iran to permanently stop its uranium enrichment program in return for a supply of nuclear fuel and economic incentives.

Tehran said the proposals were against the spirit of Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and previous agreements between it and the Europeans, which had recognized Iran’s right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Iran also says it won’t give up uranium enrichment, a right granted to it under the NPT.

On Friday, a report by the head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog said Tehran had recently produced about seven tons of the gas it needs to enrich uranium after restarting work in Isfahan.

Asefi said the report by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, does not justify Iran’s referral to the Security Council.

Britain, Germany and France, negotiating on behalf of the 25-nation European Union, have said they may get involved in drafting the language of a resolution demanding Iran be referred to the Security Council if it does not stop uranium conversion in Isfahan by the Sept. 19 IAEA board meeting.

An Iranian official said ElBaradei’s report gave Iran credit for cooperating with the IAEA, but also included sections giving Europeans the excuse to bring political pressure on Tehran.

“ElBaradei confirms that traces of highly enriched uranium, which had been used by America as a sign that Iran was moving toward nuclear weapons, were due to contaminated equipment imported into Iran,” Mohammad Saeedi, Deputy Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told state-run television Sunday.

“This is a big victory for Iran,” Saeedi said, adding that Iran will not answer some of ElBaradei’s questions.

“They have asked us to explain where do we keep dual-use equipment we have imported and similar demands,” he said. “These demands are beyond IAEA’s responsibility.”

AP-ES-09-04-05 1537EDT


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