Iran Flip-Flopping on Nuclear Agreement

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The West is trying to bully Iran into giving up its nuclear program, Iran's supreme leader said on Monday. Tehran once again appeared to be flip-flopping on its agreement to suspend nuclear activities, which could be used in the making of an atomic bomb.

The United Nations' international nuclear watchdog agency was set to meet again on Monday to decide whether Iran had complied with a deal worked out between Tehran and three European Union countries -- Britain, France and Germany -- to forestall possible U.N. Security Council sanctions.

Iran sent a letter to the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency on Sunday stating that it would completely suspend the activity of all its centrifuges, including 20 that it earlier said would continue to operate for research purposes.

But Iran's top nuclear negotiator Hossein Moussavian said on Monday that Iran had not dropped its demands regarding the 20 centrifuges.

"We have informed the agency that the 20 centrifuges should not be sealed and will go under the agency's inspection," Moussavian was quoted as saying by the official Iranian news agency IRNA.

According to a separate IRNA report on Monday, Moussavian "gloated" that "all the basic modifications" that Tehran had demanded were contained in the European draft resolution. He described it as "the most positive resolution Tehran had ever achieved in is nuclear dispute.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni also said on Monday that his country would never give up its rights to its civilian nuclear technology, which had developed into a national industry.

The United States is convinced that Iran is using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop an atomic bomb and has been pushing for the issue of Iranian nuclear development to be referred to U.N. Security Council.

But the EU has favored diplomatic maneuvers until Iran's true intentions can be discovered. Iran already broke a similar agreement with the EU-3 last year, but the IAEA has been determined to give Iran every chance to comply before referring the oil-rich state to the Security Council.

Khameni said that abandoning nuclear technology was Iran's red line and that the Iranian-EU accord had taken that into consideration.

"The Americans and the Western powers know for certain that Iran never goes after acquiring nuclear arms," said Khameni. "The propaganda against the Iranian nuclear program aims to force Iran to abandon nuclear technology, which has become a national industry in Iran."

Iran, he said, would never fear the threats posed by the bullying powers.

Secret tunnel

The German weekly Der Spiegel reported that Khamenei had personally ordered the construction of a secret tunnel last month to continue enriching uranium.

Citing a secret file, Der Spiegel said the tunnel, located near the uranium enrichment site in Isfahan, was concealed from spy satellites. It is intended to produce large amounts of the uranium UF6 gas, which could then be enriched to build a nuclear bomb.

The German weekly reported that Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi had called the report "baseless" and refuted the claim that such a tunnel could be hidden from spy satellites.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he did not believe that the EU-Iranian deal would succeed in stopping Iran's nuclear weapons' pursuit.

"Iran is making every effort to possess a nuclear weapon," Sharon was quoted as saying in an interview with Newsweek magazine. "It seems that the steps taken by the IAEA and the Europeans are insufficient to stop Iran's nuclear program."

Sharon said that instead of making a deal, "the only real solution" would be a major international effort "to exert economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran, and to bring the issue to the U.N. Security Council, where sanctions can be imposed."

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