‘Many members of the IAEA were surprised that despite Iran’s very good co-operation with the agency, some counties were for a deadline,’ said Salehi. ‘Irrespective of whether we oppose or agree to the deadline, setting a deadline from a logical point of view is unacceptable.’

Hours before Salehi’s announcement, Iranian President Khatami emphasised that his country would not reduce its military strength. Speaking at a military parade to commemorate the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, he said: ‘The Islamic Republic of Iran’s policy is based on détente – but we also insist on strengthening our military.’ The parade was the first public display of Iran’s new Shahab-3 missiles, which reportedly have a range of 800 miles. The rockets have been much criticised by the international community.