Iran enrichment row rumbles on

31 August 2005

In the midst of tense negotiations with the West over its controversial nuclear programme, Iran has announced the appointment of Gholamreza Aghazadeh as the head of its nuclear operations.

The reinstatment of Aghazadeh, who had run the programme since 1997, is seen as a defiant move by the Islamic republic and came as French president Jacques Chirac issued the sternest warning yet that Iranian intransigence on the issue could see the country referred to the UN Security Council. Chirac threatened Iran with action if the country continues to move towards uranium enrichment after the EU3 of France, Germany and the UK failed to persuade Tehran to halt operations in exchange for political, economic and technological incentives.

Nonetheless, Iran's new top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said: "We are fully committed and bound by international regulations relating to the nuclear field," adding: "What is important is to continue our cooperation in a serious way with the International Atomic Energy Agency." Larijani also said that Iran plans to unveil new negotiating proposals to the EU3 in a month's time.

Meanwhile, in a bid to lay Western concerns to rest, Iran's new defence minister Brigadier-General Mostafa Mohammad Najjar has said that using nuclear technology for military purposes is forbidden under Islamic law at a ceremony to mark his inauguration as a minister.

In related news, Iran has also announced that it has made another breakthrough in the use of biotechnology to purify uranium from its mines.

Following six years of research, Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation scientists claim to have used microbes to substantially decrease the cost, increase optimisation and reduce environmental contamination in the process that leads to the production of yellowcake.

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