Iran sharply escalated the battle of nerves over its nuclear program Tuesday, abandoning a year-old suspension of its uranium enrichment activities by cutting protective seals in full view of international inspectors and gaining access to equipment that could help the country produce a stockpile of weapons-grade fuel.
“Iran just walked away from the chess game they had been playing over the program,” said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a leading Washington think tank on nuclear issues. “It’s a different game now. Iran has made a decision to move ahead. Now, it’s up to us and our partners to stop them.”
A group of European countries has been engaged in tense negotiations with Iran for 14 months over its desire to build a nuclear production complex capable of enriching uranium.
Iran has insisted the program is for peaceful purposes, but the Europeans, backed by the United States, have said there is evidence Iran is trying build nuclear bombs and have offered Iran incentives for shutting down the complex permanently. The Bush administration has insisted it will not permit Tehran, which supports Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, to become nuclear-armed because of the threat it would pose to the United States and its allies in the Middle East, particularly Israel.