Iran to defy EU by resuming nuclear activity

By Parisa Hafezi Sun Jul 31, 2:13 PM ET

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran said on Sunday it would resume sensitive nuclear activities at once without waiting for EU compromise proposals, a move that the EU said was "unnecessary and damaging" and could derail their talks.

Iran said it was acting after the EU failed to meet a deadline set by Tehran to deliver an offer to break the impasse.

But the British Foreign Office said the EU -- represented by Britain, France and Germany -- had informed Iran that "full and detailed proposals" would be delivered in a week.

The EU plans to offer economic and political incentives in return for Iran's indefinite suspension of uranium enrichment, nuclear fuel reprocessing and related activities.

"We urge them not to take any unilateral step which would contravene the Paris agreement as that would make it very difficult to continue with the ... negotiations," it said.

A senior Iranian nuclear official told Reuters on condition of anonymity: "As we did not receive the EU proposals, naturally we will definitely resume work at the Isfahan plant tomorrow."

The EU and the United States suspect Iran is trying to build a nuclear arsenal and say if Iran restarts uranium conversion or enrichment, they will ask the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Tehran insists its program is peaceful and it only wants nuclear power to generate electricity.

In Paris last November, Iran committed "on a voluntary basis, to continue and extend its suspension to include all enrichment related and reprocessing activities" and "all tests or production at any uranium conversion installation."

The agreement also states: "The suspension will be sustained while negotiations proceed on a mutually acceptable agreement on long-term arrangements."

It was unclear whether the EU would now submit its proposals.

"Should the Iranians persist, we will as a first step consult urgently with our partners on the board of the IAEA ( International Atomic Energy Agency)," the Foreign Office said.

The IAEA board can recommend Iran be referred to the U.N. Security Council which could then vote to impose sanctions.

But Iran said earlier it had little to fear from referral to the U.N. Security Council.

"There is no legal basis for Iran's case to be referred to the U.N. Security Council. Besides, being referred to the council is not the end of the world. Some officials even believe it is better to be referred to the council," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a news conference.

Russia and China, which both hold a veto as permanent members of the council, have close trade links with Iran and are less keen on the idea of sanctions than other members.

But an EU diplomat close to the talks said two years of hard-bargaining with Iran over nuclear activities it kept secret for 18 years had seen a closer consensus emerge among Security Council members on the possible need for sanctions.

(Additional reporting by Jon Hemming in Tehran and Madeline Chambers in London)