Gulf & Middle East
Iran to withdraw from NPT if further pressured: Larijani
Apr 9, 2007 - 11:21:53 PM

Natanz -, April 9 - Top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani Monday warned that Tehran could withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty - if the international community imposes further pressure over its nuclear programme and confirmed that his country had started injecting gas into 3,000 centrifuges.

'If they give us further pressure, we will have no other choice but reconsider Iran's membership of the NPT as parliament has ruled,' Larijani told reporters at the sensitive nuclear facilities in central city of Natanz.

The UN Security Council passed two resolutions last December and this March, urging Iran to halt all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.

The Iranian parliament has demanded the government reduce cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency - since the UN Security Council slapped sanctions on Tehran last December.

Answering a question that if Iran had begun injecting gas into 3,000 centrifuges, Larijani said: 'Yes, we have injected gas.' But he did not explicitly say whether all the 3,000 machines had been installed.

However, Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy head of Iran's atomic energy organisation, said Monday that it would not announce how many centrifuges have been installed at its Natanz nuclear plant.

Saeedi asked reporters to wait for the UN nuclear watchdog's answer on this issue, saying: 'you can wait for the agency inspectors to report in 20 days.' Inspectors from the IAEA are still regularly checking Iran's nuclear sites at the moment.

Iranian officials have repeatedly vowed to install 3,000 centrifuges, but up to now Tehran was only known to have two cascades of 328 centrifuges running.

Just a few minutes before Larijani's comments, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Iran had become one of the few countries that could produce nuclear fuel at 'industrial level', which runs counter to the UN demand of halting enrichment activities.

Observers have predicted that such move would further stretch the tension between Iran and the West, just five days after the end of sailors' detention crisis with Britain.

An hour after Iranian leader's speech, a US State Department spokesman responded to Ahmadinejad's announcement, saying the declaration illustrates that UN sanctions against Tehran were 'justified.'

The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1747 in late March, urging Iran to suspend uranium enrichment work 'without further delay'.

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