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Iran Plans to Resume Uranium Enrichment

June 24, 2005

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iran will resume uranium enrichment activities at some point, no matter who wins the presidential runoff race, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday.

The statement by Hamid Reza Asefi backed up earlier declarations by Iranian officials that the nation would never abandon its enrichment program.

``Whoever is the next president, a permanent suspension is not on the cards,″ Asefi said shortly after voting began in the contest between moderate Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and hard-line Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

First results were expected early Saturday.

Iran suspended all uranium enrichment-related activities in November to avoid having its nuclear program referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. Uranium enriched to low levels has energy uses, while highly enriched uranium can be used in bombs.

Tehran’s nearly 20-year-old atomic program was revealed in 2002. During negotiations, France, Britain and Germany have been offering economic incentives in hopes of persuading Iran to put a permanent halt to enrichment.

The United States worries Iran’s nuclear program could be a cover to develop atomic weapons. Iran insists it is only interested in generating electricity.

Iranian authorities have not indicated when enrichment could resume.

Asefi said the president has ``a certain influence″ on Iran’s nuclear program but decision-making includes the powerful ruling clerics, who hold near-absolute power.

On Thursday, former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix told Swedish Radio it would take many years for Iran to achieve the capability to produce highly enriched uranium needed for an atomic bomb.

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