Iran Defies Nuclear Fuel Warnings

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Byline: By ED JAMES

IRAN risked the wrath of Western nations yesterday by removing seals on its nuclear research facilities.

Western countries have repeatedly called for it to cease nuclear activities until an agreement has been reached on the scope of its nuclear programme.

However, in a move that wrong-footed international observers, the deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, Mohammad Saeedi, last night insisted officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had authorised the seals' removal.

The seemingly bizarre claim was then confirmed by IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming in Vienna who said the Iranians had removed the seals at the Natanz facility in the presence of IAEA inspectors.

Fleming said the UN agency's 35-nation board of governors would be informed "later today" about what the Iranians planned to do with the unsealed equipment.

Last night such information was still not forthcoming.

But it became clear that IAEA inspectors arrived in Tehran on Saturday to remove the seals put on the nuclear research sites more than two years ago.

Saeedi last night stressed Iran was not resuming the highly controversial production of nuclear fuel, a process that would involve uranium enrichment.

"What we resume is merely in the field of research, not more than that," he said. …