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Iran Nuclear Debate Appears Headed to U.N.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon is away. I'm Sheilah Kast.

Tensions are high over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Today, Iran's president said his nation will not heed international calls to curb its research on uranium enrichment even if the matter is referred to the United Nations Security Council. Tehran took an initial step this week to restart the research, which had been suspended for two years. The move has the US and other nations worried that Iran will acquire the know-how to make nuclear weapons. NPR's Mike Shuster reports.

MIKE SHUSTER reporting:

The Iranian step was a small one, but with huge repercussions. On Tuesday, Iranian scientists removed seals at three nuclear sites. The Iranians declared they intend to restart research involving small-scale production of enriched uranium, the key element in a nuclear reactor and a bomb. Iran did this despite warnings from the US and from Great Britain, France and Germany. The Europeans held off-and-on talks with Iran for more than two years with the goal of convincing Tehran not to enrich uranium. But those talks were fruitless, and when Iran broke the seals, the Europeans declared the negotiations had reached a dead end. It was time to take the issue to the UN Security Council.

That has been the goal of the Bush administration ever since Iran's secret nuclear program was made public in 2003. But the US has had great difficulty convincing other nations of the wisdom of that course. Now it seems a move to the Security Council is assured. On Friday, President Bush said he wouldn't prejudge what the Security Council might do, but he said that's the logical next step.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Iran armed with a nuclear weapon poses a grave threat to the security of the world.

SHUSTER: There has been talk recently of the use of air strikes against Iranian nuclear sites, but President Bush emphasized repeatedly yesterday that he is seeking a diplomatic solution to the problem.

Pres. BUSH: Our job is to make it clear to all parties that it is in the world's interest that Iran not have a nuclear weapon. In other words, share the same goal. Once that goal is established, it makes it easier to come up with the strategy to achieve the goal.

SHUSTER: Iran insists it is not seeking nuclear weapons but has the right to pursue peaceful nuclear energy. Iran's foreign minister said at week's end that if it is brought before the Security Council, Iran will cease cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has monitored its nuclear activities for the past three years. Mike Shuster, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mike Shuster is an award-winning diplomatic correspondent and roving foreign correspondent for NPR News. He is based at NPR West, in Culver City, CA. When not traveling outside the U.S., Shuster covers issues of nuclear non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and the Pacific Rim.

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