Iran | Iran Continues Progress on Nuclear Technology
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Iran Continues Progress on Nuclear Technology
In Jan. 2006, Iran removed UN seals on uranium enrichment equipment and resumed nuclear research. France, Britain, and Germany called off nuclear talks with Iran, and along with the U.S. States, threatened to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, a step avoided thus far. Russia and China, both of whom have strong economic ties to Iran, refused to endorse sanctions. In April, Iran announced it had successfully enriched uranium. In July, a Security Council resolution was finally passed, demanding that Iran halt its nuclear activities by the end of August or face possible sanctions.
In May 2007, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran is using about 1,300 centrifuges and producing fuel for nuclear reactors, evidence that the country has flouted another deadline to stop enriching uranium. The fuel would have to be further enriched to make it weapons grade, however. In September, Iran followed the IAEA's finding with the announcement that it had reached its goal of developing 3,000 active centrifuges.
A National Intelligence Estimate, released in Dec. 2007 and compiled by the 16 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community, reported "with high confidence" that Iran had frozen its nuclear weapons program in 2003. The report contradicted one written in 2005 that stated Iran was determined to continue developing such weapons. The report put the brakes on any plans by the Bush administration to preemptively attack Iran's weapons facilities and to impose another round of sanctions against Iran. The report suggests that Iran has bowed to international pressure to end its pursuit of an atomic bomb. President Bush remained skeptical, saying Iran remains a threat and can not be trusted to pursue enriching uranium for civilian use: "Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous, if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," he said. "What’s to say they couldn’t start another covert nuclear weapons program?"
In May 2008, Parliament overwhelmingly elected former secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Larijani as speaker. Larijani, a rival to Ahmadinejad, though conservative and a proponent of the country's nuclear program, is considered a pragmatist who is open to talking to the West.
Iran continued to taunt the U.S. and Israel in July when it test fired nine long- and medium-range missiles, which could reach parts of Israel. A commander of the Revolutionary Guard said, "The aim of these war games is to show we are ready to defend the integrity of the Iranian nation." The U.S. and Israel both condemned the action. Just days later, Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, met with representatives from the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China to discuss the country's nuclear program. Iran, however, refused to accept a proposal that called on the country to freeze its nuclear program, in exchange for a pledge by the six nations not to seek further sanctions against Iran.
Iran launched a satellite into orbit in Jan. 2009. The launch was timed to coincide with Iran's celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. The U.S. expressed "great concern" about the move, fearing it could lead to the development of longer-range ballistic missiles.