Wednesday, 10 February 2010

IAEA: Iran to Begin Higher Atom Enrichment in Days

Readers Number : 353

10/02/2010 The Iranian envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency has upheld his country's right to enrich uranium up to 20 percent, warning confrontation is not in the interest of the parties involved. In talks with Al-Alam, Ali Asghar Soltanieh said Iran is legally entitled to the enrichment for research and medical purposes.

Iran needs the uranium for its research reactors and has written a letter in 2009 to former-IAEA secretary general Mohamed ElBaradei to inform the UN nuclear watchdog of Tehran's need for the fuel, Soltanieh said. He added the IAEA agreed to cater to Iran's need but at the same time set some conditions for the supply.

However, the Iranian envoy said setting conditions was "illegal, because Iran was pursuing humanitarian purposes in its nuclear program." Soltanieh further said Iran invited the nuclear agency's inspector to visit Iran's nuclear sites and verify the non-civilian nature of the program.

Iran started the 20-percent enrichment program after the West failed to live up to its promises of providing Tehran with the needed fuel. However, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi said on Tuesday that the nuclear fuel swap option is still on the table. Iran has said it is open to get high-enriched uranium in return for its low-enriched uranium. But differences over details continue to hamper the deal.

In the meantime, Iran dismissed as "not logical" a plan by the United States that would allow Tehran to obtain medical isotopes in return for a halt to its program of enriching uranium to 20 percent level. "Shutting down the reactor or stopping the production of medicine is not the solution," said foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast. "This proposal is not logical."

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley had floated the idea after Tehran Tuesday announced it had started the process of enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, which makes medical isotopes.

"The solution is that the other side cooperates to increase (the number of) these reactors... and meet the needs of patients." Washington and other world powers, he said, had "better adopt a realistic approach instead of economic and political pressures to deprive us of our basic rights."

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