Iran resumes uranium conversion
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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran has restarted work at a nuclear facility, saying it is for peaceful purposes only, and flatly rejected a European offer aimed at ensuring the nation does not seek nuclear weapons.
Monday's moves dealt a double blow to U.S. and European officials who had warned they may bring the issue to the U.N. Security Council if Iran did not agree to sign an agreement restricting its nuclear activities.
Hard-line conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office as Iran's president on Wednesday. Though Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has far more power -- and final word in all matters of state -- Ahmadinejad had vowed to defend Iran's right to use nuclear energy for civilian purposes.
Iran had suspended its nuclear activities amid heavy international pressure. U.S. and European officials called on Tehran not to resume any such activities until it reached an agreement with negotiators from the EU-3 -- Britain, France, and Germany.
But Monday, Iran announced it was restarting the Isfahan facility for uranium conversion -- not uranium enrichment, which the United States and some other countries fear could be part of a covert nuclear weapons program.
On state-run TV, Iran insisted there was no rule against resuming uranium conversion, and said that process had not been sealed -- just suspended.
It said the Isfahan nuclear plant was restarted after the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, installed surveillance cameras.
The IAEA issued a statement saying Iran restarted uranium conversion after cameras were put in, "but regrettably" before the testing of the cameras was completed.
Other parts of the process line that had been sealed "remain intact," the statement said.
The United States has no diplomatic ties with Iran. But U.S. officials openly called on Iran to accept the EU-3 offer, a package of proposals promising long-term support for a nuclear energy program in exchange for guarantees not to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid-Reza Asefi, said over the weekend the offer was "not acceptable." And the nation's senior negotiator, Hussein Mousavian, said his nation would under no circumstances "barter its right to the enrichment process."
Asefi said Monday he met with the ambassadors of Britain, Germany, and France, and informed them Tehran was rejecting the offer.
It was unclear whether U.S. officials may bring the case to the United Nations.
U.S. President George W. Bush once branded Iran part of the "axis of evil," along with North Korea and Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
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