| Iranian technicians remove a container of radioactive uranium, which had been sealed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, to be used at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facilities. (AFP)
Isfahan (Iran), Aug. 8 (Reuters): Iran resumed work at a uranium conversion plant today, fanning western fears it may be seeking nuclear weapons and defying EU warnings that it could be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
Iran ' which denies harbouring nuclear weapons ambitions ' also delivered its formal rejection of a EU package of political and economic incentives designed to persuade it to scrap nuclear fuel work for good.
“The EU proposal was very insulting and humiliating,” said Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation.
At the uranium conversion facility near the central city of Isfahan, two workers wearing white overalls, face masks and hard hats lifted a barrel of uranium yellow cake, opened its lid and fed it into the processing line.
Other workers at the plant watched via closed circuit television as Iran ended the suspension of all nuclear fuel work agreed with the EU in Paris last November.
A nuclear scientist, who declined to be named, said: “I am excited, I didn’t believe it until the last moment thinking this may not happen, but now I am very happy.”
Britain, Germany and France, heading nuclear negotiations with Iran for the EU, have called an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors for Tuesday at the UN watchdog’s headquarters in Vienna.
“We are not going to speculate on the outcome of that meeting,” a British foreign ministry spokesman said.
“However, our position is well known ' were Iran to resume any part of uranium enrichment activity, including at Isfahan, this would be a breach of the Paris Agreement signed in 2004.”
An state department official, who asked not to be named because the US was forming its official response, said: “It’s a symbolic, political, in-your-face move.
But it makes no sense that in some way this is in Iran’s interest.”
French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Friday warned Iran that restarting Isfahan would probably see Iran referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
Iran said it was unconcerned. “Even if they issue a resolution tomorrow, since it would have no legal basis would violate the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we won’t accept it and will carry on with our work,” Saeedi told a small group of reporters invited to witness the resumption of work at Isfahan.
Iran denies any desire to make atomic bombs, saying it needs nuclear power as an energy source to meet booming electricity demand and preserve its oil and gas reserves for export.
Iran says the EU proposal, which included offers of help to develop civilian nuclear energy and in becoming a major transit route for Central Asian oil, is unacceptable as it denies Iran the right to produce its own nuclear fuel.