November 30, 2009
Iran had no intention of building 10 new nuclear facilities until it was strongly rebuked by the UN nuclear watchdog over its nuclear activities, the country's nuclear chief said Monday.
Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi told state radio that Iran needed to give a strong response to the International Atomic Energy Agency's resolution Friday demanding that Iran halt to construction of its newly revealed uranium enrichment facility and end all other enrichment activities.
Any new enrichment plants would take years to build and stock with centrifuges - if the material could even be obtained under UN sanctions - but the ambitious plans were a bold show by Iran that it won't back down amid a deadlock in negotiation attempts.
The US and its allies fear the facilities give Iran the capability to produce weapons-grade nuclear material and have called for an immediate halt to the enrichment of uranium.
Iran has rejected such claims, saying its uranium enrichment facilities will only produce fuel for nuclear reactors to generate electricity.
The Cabinet ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to begin building new facilities at five sites that have already been studied and propose five other locations for future construction within two months.
The new sites are to be on the same scale of Iran's only other industrial enrichment plant currently in operation, near the town of Natanz in central Iran.
"We had no intention of building many facilities like the Natanz site, but apparently the West doesn't want to understand Iran's peaceful message," Salehi said.Salehi, who is also the head of Iran's nuclear program, said the IAEA resolution backed by six world powers left no option for Iran but to give a firm response.
"The action by 5+1 (US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany) at the IAEA prompted the (Iranian) government to approve a proposal to build 10 sites like that of Natanz," he said.On Sunday, Salehi said Iran would build its new sites inside mountains to protect it from possible attack because Iran has decided not to let its nuclear activities stop "even for a moment."
Iran aims to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity through nuclear power plants in the next 20 years. Iranian officials say the new enrichment facilities are needed to produce enough fuel for its future nuclear power plants.
Ahmadinejad told the Cabinet that Iran will need to install 500,000 centrifuges at the planned facilities to produce between 250 to 300 tons of fuel annually.
"We require multiple sites to produce nuclear fuel for us. We need at least ten new sites," Ahmadinejad said in comments broadcast on state TV Monday.The International Atomic Energy Agency said earlier this month that about 8,600 centrifuges had been set up in Natanz, but only about 4,000 were enriching uranium. The facility is designed to eventually house 54,000 centrifuges.
But Iran's newly revealed enrichment site, which set off the latest cycle of concern and criticism over Tehran's nuclear intentions, is a small scale site near the holy city of Qom that will house 3,000 centrifuges.
The IAEA resolution came after Iran rejected a UN-backed plan to ship most of its stock of uranium abroad for further enrichment.
The UN-brokered plan required Iran to send 1.2 tons (1,100 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium - around 70 percent of its stockpile - to Russia in one batch by the end of the year, easing concerns the material would be used for a bomb.
After further enrichment in Russia, France would convert the uranium into fuel rods that would be returned to Iran for use in a reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes. Fuel rods cannot be further enriched into weapons-grade material.
Iran had indicated that it may agree to send only "part" of its stockpile in several shipments. Should the talks fail to help Iran obtain the fuel from abroad, Iran has threatened to enrich uranium to the higher level needed to power the research reactor itself domestically.
Salehi said the Iranian Cabinet will discuss the issue Wednesday but didn't give any further details.
November 27, 2009
In a blow to Iran, the board of the U.N. nuclear agency on Friday overwhelmingly backed a demand from the U.S., Russia, China and three other powers that Tehran immediately stop building its newly revealed nuclear facility and freeze uranium enrichment.
Iranian officials shrugged off approval of the resolution by 25 members of the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency. But the U.S. and its allies hinted of new U.N. sanctions if Tehran remains defiant.
The West said some time remained for Tehran to come around and accept a specific offer that would delay its ability to make a nuclear weapon as well as engage in broader talks with the ultimate goal of persuading it to mothball its enrichment program.
But that window of opportunity would not stay open indefinitely, officials said.
"The next stage will have to be sanctions if Iran doesn't respond to what is a very clear vote from the world community," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the resolution's passage shows that "the international community still wants dialogue with Iran, but time is pressing."
"Our hand is still held out," he added. "I hope Iran will take it. Iran must know: our patience is not infinite."White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs avoided mentioning sanctions — but indicated harsher measures were possible unless Iran compromised.
"Our patience and that of the international community is limited, and time is running out," he said in a statement. "If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences."Iran argues that its nuclear program is aimed at creating a peaceful nuclear energy network to serve its growing population. The U.S. and other nations believe Iran's nuclear program has the goal of creating atomic weapons.
The IAEA resolution criticized Iran for defying a U.N. Security Council ban on uranium enrichment — the source of both nuclear fuel and the fissile core of warheads.
November 27, 2009
The UN nuclear watchdog's governing body has passed a resolution condemning Iran for developing a uranium enrichment site in secret. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also demanded that Iran freeze the project immediately.
The resolution, the first against Iran in nearly four years, was passed by a 25-3 margin with six abstentions.
Iran called the move "useless" but the US said it showed time was running out for Iran to address key issues.
Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy purposes, but the US says it is seeking nuclear weapons.
In September, it emerged that as well as its uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, Iran had a second such facility near the town of Qom. The revelation deepened Western fears about the country's nuclear ambitions.
The IAEA resolution was passed with rare Russian and Chinese backing. Only Cuba, Venezuela and Malaysia voted against it.
It called on Iran to reveal the purpose of the second plant and confirm that it is not building any other undeclared nuclear facilities. After the resolution, the US said Iran needed to address "the growing international deficit of confidence in its intentions".
"Our patience and that of the international community is limited, and time is running out," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.Speaking at a Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that sanctions were the next step if Iran did not respond to what was "a very clear vote".
"If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences."
Russia's Foreign Ministry urged Iran to react "with full seriousness" to the resolution.
This resolution is a sign of Iran's growing isolation. It is the first at the IAEA since 2006. Crucially it secured the support of Russia and China. That makes it more likely they will vote for new sanctions on Iran when debate is stepped up in the new year, though there are still some tough negotiations ahead.
It seems that Iran's hesitation over a new fuel deal for its Tehran research reactor and its reluctance to engage in more constructive talks has infuriated even those countries which have protected it in the past.
On Thursday IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei, who has always pressed for a compromise solution, expressed his frustration in dealing with Iran.
In response, Iran has threatened to reduce its co-operation with the UN nuclear watchdog, but not to break off ties completely. The real trouble for Tehran is that the Iranian government now seems to be in too much internal turmoil to make clear decisions and follow them through.
But Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast called the IAEA vote "a theatrical move aimed at pressuring Iran" that would be "useless", state news agency Irna reported.
And Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said it was a "hasty and undue" step that would jeopardise the chances of success in negotiations.
"The great nation of Iran will never bow to pressure and intimidation vis-a-vis its inalienable right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy," he said.The resolution came a day after the outgoing head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, expressed frustration at Iran's refusal to accept an international proposal to end the dispute over its nuclear programme.
The plan envisages Iran's low-enriched uranium being shipped overseas for processing into fuel. This is seen as a way for Iran to get the fuel it wants, while giving guarantees to the West that it will not be used for nuclear weapons.
Addressing IAEA governors in Vienna on Thursday, Mr ElBaradei said his inspectors had made no progress in their attempts to verify the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme.
"It is now well over a year since the agency was last able to engage Iran in discussions about these outstanding issues," he said. "We have effectively reached a dead end, unless Iran engages fully with us."