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Iran Says it Will Resume Production of Uranium Centrifuge Parts - 2004-06-24

A State Department official says Iran has told European governments it will resume production of uranium centrifuge parts, in what the U.S. official calls a clear example of Iranian government determination to develop a nuclear weapon.

The announcement came from John Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control, who appeared before the US House Subcommittee on the Middle East.

"We have been informed that Iran has announced a substantial resumption of its uranium enrichment program, reneging on the commitment that it made to the United Kingdom, Germany and France by informing them and the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] that it will begin next week the production of uranium centrifuge parts and equipment, assembly and testing," Mr. Bolton said.

He called the Iranian move a thumb in the eye of the international nuclear agency and international community and proof of a strategic decision by Tehran to continue seeking a nuclear weapons capability.

Last week, the IAEA declared that Iran had broken promises of complete disclosure concerning its nuclear efforts and urged Tehran to answer all outstanding questions about its nuclear ambitions.

After a meeting last Monday with IAEA Director General Mohamed el-Baradei, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the Bush administration will reconsider whether to pursue U.N. sanctions against Iran, but not until September when the nuclear agency holds its next meeting.

Undersecretary Bolton says the United States is consulting closely with Britain, France and Germany, adding that Tehran's decision makes more important steps to refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council.

Noting a previous Iranian commitment to Britain, France and Germany to suspend centrifuge production, Mr. Bolton added, "They have not at least at this point said that they would resume actual enrichment activities, but it seems to me it is perfectly obvious that Iran is not producing for uranium centrifuges to use them as nic-nacs in Iranian living rooms."

At the same hearing, the chairman of the Middle East Subcommittee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, sent this message about congressional concern, "Iran's unconventional weapons program and its fondness for using terrorism as statecraft, have made this pariah state a litmus test for President George Bush's war on terror. A nuclear Iran, combined with its deep-rooted terrorist infrastructure, is an Iran that must be stopped."

The congresswoman and other lawmakers say the IAEA made a serious mistake in its resolution last week by failing to include a threat of U.N. Security Council action.

Responding to the resolution last week, Iranian officials said concerns about its nuclear program are baseless, saying the nuclear agency acted under pressure from the United States.