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Iran said to enrich 100 kg uranium before new talks

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran has stored 100 kg of enriched uranium material, its interior minister was quoted on Friday as saying, in comments that may worry Western powers who suspect the Islamic Republic of seeking to build nuclear bombs. But a senior Iranian nuclear official cast doubt on the information. “The figures are not correct,” the official, who declined to be named, told Reuters. Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi made his comment ahead of sensitive talks on Iran’s nuclear program between Iran’s top negotiator and the U.N. atomic watchdog director and the European Union’s foreign policy chief. Iran’s Ali Larijani will meet International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei on Friday and the EU’s Javier Solana on Saturday in what may be a last chance to end the impasse before world powers begin drafting broader sanctions against Iran. Iran has refused U.N. demands to halt enrichment, a process that yields fuel for nuclear power plants but can also provide material for weapons if the uranium is refined to a much higher degree. Tehran says its goal is purely peaceful electricity. The IAEA is also concerned about Iranian cutbacks in the access given to agency inspectors. ISNA news agency quoted Pourmohammadi as saying: “More than 100 kg of enriched uranium materials have been delivered to storages.” Pourmohammadi, speaking in southwestern Iran late on Thursday, also said “more than 150 tonnes of initial materials of uranium gas are ready and have been stored.” Uranium gas is fed into centrifuges for refinement into fuel. Diplomats and nuclear analysts say roughly 500 kg of low-enriched uranium would be needed as material for one bomb but it would have to be re-introduced into centrifuge machines reconfigured to refine uranium to weapons-grade. They say such a step would be difficult to hide from U.N. inspectors assigned to the Natanz enrichment plant, where Iran has been expanding a hitherto research-level centrifuge operation in a bid for “industrial-scale” fuel production. Iran has repeatedly said it has no intention of trying to produce highly-enriched uranium suitable for weapons in violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. POINT OF NO RETURN The last Larijani-Solana meeting in Madrid in May brought no breakthrough on the core enrichment dispute and the latest exploratory talks were unlikely to make much headway. Iran has said it wants to clear up IAEA questions about the nature of its program but not unless the U.N. Security Council returns authority over its file to the Vienna-based agency, ending sanctions pressure — a nonstarter for Western powers. Instead of freezing all enrichment-related activity, as the Security Council has demanded, Iran has accelerated the program and says it has passed the point of no return. “When the world saw that the (Iranian) nation is pursuing this goal with unity, the world surrendered, ” Pourmohammadi said. “We have passed the dangerous moment.” The Security Council has already imposed two rounds of limited sanctions on Iran over its refusal to shelve enrichment. The United States said on Tuesday it and five other world powers — Britain, Russia, France, Germany and China — had begun discussing a third round of penalties against Iran. Iran, OPEC’s second-largest crude exporter, says it is enriching uranium only as an alternative energy source so that it can export more of its valuable oil and gas.

June 22, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, news, personal, politics, random, religion, Terrorism, Terrorism In The U.S., Terrorism News, Uncategorized, War-On-Terror

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