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Iran: International Reaction to Iran's Nuclear Program
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Nuclear Issues > International Reaction to Iran's Nuclear Program


As early as the 1990s, a lack of transparency regarding nuclear activity was a major factor in Iran’s international isolation. In October 2003, Iran acknowledged that it had enriched small quantities of uranium using imported centrifuge components and had conducted plutonium separation experiments without declaring these activities to the IAEA. Iran never has agreed that it seriously violated its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which it is a signatory, and it has continuously asserted that its nuclear program is permissible under the treaty because it is intended for producing energy. Despite ongoing inspections, the IAEA was not able to resolve all questions about Iran’s compliance. Meanwhile, Iranian conservatives were advocating withdrawal from the NPT; former president Mohammad Khatami resisted such pressure, but conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who succeeded Khatami in 2005, displayed a more ambivalent attitude. In 2005 and 2006, Iran threatened to withdraw if its right to nuclear technology were not recognized.

In 2005 the failure of Iranian officials and those of the United Kingdom, France, and Germany to reach a mutual agreement on the nuclear issue created an international impression of an ongoing cover-up. Soon after Ahmadinejad assumed office in August 2005, he ended Iran’s unilateral commitment to cease uranium enrichment activities at the Esfahan nuclear conversion plant; a renewal of that activity was announced in February 2006. Iran justified construction of nuclear facilities by citing a need to process domestically extracted uranium for use in the 30 nuclear power plants that nominally were in the planning stage. The decision to build those plants enjoyed national support and was approved by both reformist and conservative factions within the regime.

The secret nature of the project to give Iran nuclear technology, the limitations on available technology, fear of a U.S. or Israeli military response, and the U.S. military presence in the region combined to make rapid completion of the Bushehr nuclear project a key goal. Project completion also was important because the Bushehr reactor had become a symbol of national pride. However, the project was slowed by Russia’s concerns about jeopardizing its relations with the West.

Data as of 2008

Last Updated: January 2008

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Iran was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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