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Iran's President Warns Europeans on Nuclear Criticism - 2004-06-15

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami warns Europe's big powers that continued pressure on Tehran to alter its nuclear program may jeopardize its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. But experts see President Khatami's warning as little more than a political ploy.

President Khatami is reported to have sent a letter to the leaders of France, Britain, and Germany warning them that continued criticisms of Iran's nuclear program would harm mutual trust and Tehran's cooperation with international nuclear inspectors.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is considering a tough resolution drawn up by the Europeans that sharply criticizes Tehran for not fully cooperating with the nuclear agency. Several senior Iranian government officials also threatened to reconsider Iran's cooperation with nuclear inspectors.

Cairo University lecturer and expert on Iranian affairs, Amal Hamada, said Tehran's latest threats are little more than political posturing. "They can not be that bold, because they are aware of the political consequences behind not doing it with the international agency," he explained. "So, I think, if you read the history of the Iranian cooperation, or dealings, with the IAEA international agency, it has always been like this: 'We will not sign, we will not sign unless you do something.' And, the international agency would come up with a recommendation that is not as tough as the U.S. wants it. And, then they submit. It has always been like this. So, they will do it at the end, but they are trying to get the best out of this if they can."

The head of the Center for Asian Studies at Cairo University, Mohammed el-Sayed Selim, is also an expert on Iran. He says Iran has every right to develop nuclear technology, but believes Tehran will, in the end, comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"This is a game, and each one wants to use all its bargaining chips in order to get the best option," he said. "So, these Iranian threats are part of this political bargaining. I do not believe Iran will withdraw from the NPT or honor their threats. I think this is sort of political bargaining in order to reach a situation in which Iran would apply the NPT, as it was stipulated in 1968."

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Iran has no plans to produce nuclear weapons.

Tehran insists its nuclear program is solely for the peaceful production of electricity. But other countries, including the United States, have accused Iran of trying to conceal a nuclear weapons program.

The IAEA, whose board of directors is meeting in Vienna this week, is expected to adopt a resolution that rebukes Iran for failing to fully disclose its nuclear activities, but stops short of calling for U.N. sanctions against Tehran.