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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 April, 2004, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
Iran uranium plant sparks new row
Aerial view of Natanz facility
Iran has been accused of keeping some of its nuclear activities secret [Photo: Digitalglobe]
Iran has hit back after European criticism of its decision to set up a uranium conversion plant near Isfahan.

UN ambassador Pirooz Hosseini told Reuters news agency the plant was not in breach of Iran's commitment to suspend uranium enrichment.

On Wednesday the UK, Germany and France issued a joint statement saying the plant's creation sent the wrong signal to the international community.

The row comes less than a week after UN inspectors returned to Iran.

The plant is a totally separate issue from our commitment to the suspension of uranium enrichment
Pirooz Hosseini
Iranian ambassador to the UN
Inspections were suspended earlier in March after a dispute with UN watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The IAEA has rebuked Tehran for keeping some of its nuclear activities secret.

The US, meanwhile, says Iran is using its nuclear power programme to develop weapons.

Strong reaction

Mr Hosseini told Reuters that he would be discussing criticism of the new plant with British, French and German representatives in the next few days, adding that Iran would keep its promise made to European countries last October about enrichment and inspections.

"[The plant is] a totally separate issue from our commitment to the suspension of uranium enrichment," he said.

This announcement sends the wrong signal about Iranian willingness to implement a suspension of nuclear enrichment-related activities
UK Foreign Office statement
The ambassador did not say whether Tehran would be prepared to shut down the plant, the inauguration of which was announced on Saturday.

Iran says the facility will process uranium ore into gas, a step towards enrichment.

The news prompted a strong reaction from the UK Foreign Office.

"This announcement sends the wrong signal about Iranian willingness to implement a suspension of nuclear enrichment-related activities," it said in a statement.

"It will make it more difficult for Iran to re-establish international confidence in her undertakings. Iran must explain her statement and her intentions."

The German Foreign Ministry expressed similar concerns.


SEE ALSO:
Nuclear inspectors return to Iran
27 Mar 04  |  Middle East
UN condemns Iran nuclear secrecy
13 Mar 04  |  Middle East
Iran slams US nuclear 'bullying'
10 Mar 04  |  Middle East
Iran set for UN nuclear censure
09 Mar 04  |  Middle East
US blasts Iran nuclear 'stories'
08 Mar 04  |  Middle East
Q&A: Iran's nuclear programme
18 Dec 03  |  Middle East


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