Iran Won't Stop Enriching Uranium

Iranian flag overlaid with fallout symbol. nukes nuclear weapons Iran
Iran will not stop enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, despite a request from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, Iran's foreign minister said in remarks published Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi also rejected calls from hard-liners in Iran, angry at the international pressure, that the country quit the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which prohibits the development of nuclear weapons.

"We are standing resolutely and will not allow anybody to deprive us of our legitimate right to make peaceful use of nuclear energy, especially uranium enrichment to provide fuel for nuclear plants," Kharrazi said at a meeting Monday night of imams, or Muslim prayer leaders. The official news agency IRNA published his comments Tuesday.

Last month, the U.N. nuclear agency gave Iran a deadline of Oct. 31 to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful. The resolution also urged Iran "to suspend all further uranium enrichment-related activities."

Iran insists its nuclear program is entirely for generating energy, particularly after its oil wells run dry. Nuclear reactors use radioactive uranium as fuel to produce electricity.

The United States, however, strongly suspects Iran has a nuclear weapons program.

In recent weeks, Iran has twice had to acknowledge that particles of uranium, enriched to weapons-grade level, have been found in different parts of the country. Iran said the particles came from contaminated equipment imported from another country it did not identify.

Some Iranian hard-liners have called for the country to quit the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But Kharrazi said Iran was committed to the treaty — for now.

"Withdrawing from the treaty is not on our agenda ... unless Iran is deprived of all its rights," Kharrazi said.

The IAEA board is expected to take up the issue at next month's meeting. It could decide Iran has violated the treaty, in which case it would probably refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions on Iran.