AFP: Iranian officials warned the UN's atomic energy watchdog Wednesday that an overly tough approach would jeopardise the Islamic republic's suspension of sensitive nuclear fuel activities. AFP

by Siavosh Ghazi

TEHRAN - Iranian officials warned the UN's atomic energy watchdog Wednesday that an overly tough approach would jeopardise the Islamic republic's suspension of sensitive nuclear fuel activities.

They complained on the eve of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board meeting that a draft resolution put together by Britain, France and Germany ran counter to a deal struck between Tehran and the EU's "Big Three".

"The text of the draft resolution does not conform to the Paris accord," Mohammad Saidi, deputy head of Iran's national Atomic Energy Organisation, told the student news agency ISNA.

He contended that the Europeans were trying to legally oblige Iran to maintain an "unlimited suspension", whereas Iran had only agreed to freeze its controversial fuel cycle work for the duration of a fresh round of negotiations with the EU aimed at reaching a long-term solution to the nuclear stand-off.

He also said the draft's demands that Iran allow unrestricted access by IAEA inspectors to sites here went "above and beyond the terms" of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its additional protocol.

The same complaint was made by the head of Iran's hardline parliament, who also warned that deputies would press for a resumption of enrichment if the IAEA meeting did not go in Iran's favour.

"The parliament is expecting that the IAEA and the European Union show that they respect their commitments during the meeting of the board of governors," Gholamali Haddad Adel told the assembly.

"Otherwise the parliament will force the government to resume enrichment."

Haddad Adel said the meeting Thursday would be "the moment of truth in judging the sincerity of the Europeans" -- in other words Iran should make it through the meeting relatively unscathed.

"We will wait and see if the IAEA makes a decision based on the law or if it will make a political decision under US pressure," the head of the Majlis said.

Washington accuses Tehran of using its nuclear power programme as a cover for developing nuclear weapons, a charge vehemently denied by Iran.

The IAEA's 35-nation board of governors is to decide on the next step in the stand-off in light of Iran's agreement to freeze its activities related to uranium enrichment.
The freeze still needs to be verified.

The suspension was part of a deal with the Big Three made after Iran was threatened with being hauled in front of the UN Security Council for possible sanctions -- something the United States has been pushing for.

Iran was under pressure to suspend all it enrichment activities amid fears that once it has mastered the fuel cycle it could divert its programme towards making highly enriched uranium -- the explosive core of a nuclear bomb.

Tehran insists it only wants to enrich uranium to low levels, so as to become self-sufficient in producing fuel for a series of atomic energy reactors it plans to build in the future.

It also contends that enrichment for peaceful purposes is permitted by the NPT.

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