Iran sends mixed signals on quitting nuclear curb pact

Mon Nov 30, 2009 1:44pm EST
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By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - An influential Iranian leader suggested on Monday Iran should quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty in protest against a U.N. censure over its nuclear activity, but its atomic energy chief dismissed such a move.

Tehran caused an international outcry on Sunday when it announced plans to build 10 more uranium enrichment sites in retaliation for a rebuke by the U.N. nuclear agency for covering up an enrichment project for at least two years.

Russia said it was "seriously concerned" by Iran's gambit to massively expand enrichment, criticism that could raise Western hopes for Russian backing for harsher sanctions against Tehran.

Washington condemned the plans as a serious violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said there was little point in Iran staying in the treaty if it was liable to be reprimanded by the International Atomic Energy Agency for exercising its right to develop peaceful nuclear energy.

"I believe that their moves are harming the NPT the most ... Now, whether you are a member of the NPT, or pull out of it, makes no difference," Larijani told a news conference.

However, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's atomic energy agency and seen as a relative moderate, told Reuters later Tehran had no wish to leave the NPT.

"Our spiritual leader says that to obtain nuclear weapons is a sin -- if we wanted to obtain nuclear weapons we would leave the Non-Proliferation Treaty," he said through an interpreter.   Continued...

<p>Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad greets people outside the presidential palace in La Paz November 24, 2009. Ahmadinejad is on a one-day visit to Bolivia. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares</p>