The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Iran threat to cut off trade ties

Tehran, Sept. 27 (Reuters): Iran threatened today to use trade ties to punish countries that voted against it at the UN atomic watchdog, after Tehran failed to convince the world its nuclear programme was peaceful.

“We will reconsider our economic cooperation with those countries that voted against us,” foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

Washington accuses Iran of seeking nuclear warheads, but Tehran insists it needs atomic fuel for power stations.

Angered by the IAEA resolution, Tehran has already threatened to resume uranium enrichment ' a process that can be used to make bomb-grade material ' and curtail short-notice UN inspections.

Analysts had predicted Iran could also roll out the oil weapon in a bid to prompt a change of heart among countries seeking to send Iran to the Security Council. But such a move could backfire. Oil accounts for 80 per cent of export earnings and interrupting that flow of hard cash would be politically risky.

Larijani warned about the “massive consequences” of a Security Council referral without elaborating. “I don’t think any rush to refer Iran’s case would be useful for America and the EU,” he said.

EU “big three”, France, Germany and Britain, who have drawn most of Iran’s ire for drafting the IAEA resolution, also have key investment deals in Iran’s energy, automotive and petrochemicals sectors.

Japan, another strong advocate of the IAEA resolution against Iran, is seeking to increase its imports from the Islamic Republic through a $2 billion development of the giant Azadegan oilfield.

Poor processing

A threat by Iran to resume uranium enrichment may have little substance behind it since Tehran has not yet mastered the technology to produce the high-quality gas required, western diplomats say.

The processing at Iran’s Isfahan plant converts raw uranium “yellowcake” into uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6), which can then be enriched into fuel for power stations or nuclear bombs. Diplomats said, however, that the quality of UF6 produced at Isfahan was so poor that it could not be used at Iran’s massive enrichment site at Natanz.

“The UF6 is crap,” said a western diplomat, who follows Iran’s nuclear case closely. Another diplomat was more diplomatic: “I wouldn’t say it’s garbage. But the UF6 produced at Isfahan is of such poor quality that if it were fed into centrifuges it could damage them.”

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