Scotland on Sunday: Iran said yesterday that it would press ahead with plans to expand its nuclear programme, after diplomats in Vienna said Tehran was installing advanced centrifuges at its key uranium enrichment plant. Scotland On Sunday
By Hossein Jaseb and Anne Gearan in Tehran and Washington
IRAN said yesterday that it would press ahead with plans to expand its nuclear programme, after diplomats in Vienna said Tehran was installing advanced centrifuges at its key uranium enrichment plant.
Government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham also rejected any idea of halting work which the United States believes is aimed at building nuclear bombs in return for trade, technology and other benefits.
Speaking a few days before the Islamic Republic’s annual National Nuclear Technology Day on April 8, Elham said he hoped for “good news” on that day but did not elaborate. The world’s fourth-largest oil producer says it needs to produce nuclear fuel for a planned network of power plants to satisfy soaring electricity demand.
“The trend of advancing nuclear capacity until reaching the production of nuclear fuel and building nuclear power plants to produce 20,000 megawatts of electricity will continue,” Elham said.
On Thursday, diplomats told Reuters that Iran has begun installing advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in its Natanz enrichment complex, accelerating activity that could give it the means to make atom bombs in future if it chose to.
Iran has been hit with three sets of United Nations sanctions for hiding the programme until 2003, failing to prove to inspectors since then that it is wholly peaceful and refusing to suspend the disputed programme.
Enriched uranium can be used as fuel in nuclear power plants or, if refined much further, provide material for weapons. After a pause of several months, Iran has now assembled more than 300 centrifuges, the diplomats said.
The Washington Times reported last month that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council were preparing a package of incentives for Tehran if it stops its programme.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has rejected the reported package of incentives, Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted him as saying in an interview published on Friday. Elham said: “This (nuclear technology”> is our obvious right and we do not exchange our rights for things like incentives.”
Ahmadinejad has also said Iran would only discuss its nuclear programme with the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), rejecting a call by world powers to hold more talks with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
“We do not accept replacing the IAEA… in the framework of negotiations,” Elham said.
Iran’s recommencement of its nuclear programme is the second such threat to global peace within a week. US and North Korean nuclear negotiators are already scheduled to meet next week to try to break a deadlock in disarmament talks over how the North will account for its nuclear past.
Assistant US Secretary of State Christopher Hill will hold talks with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye Gwan, on Tuesday in Singapore. Hill will then travel to Beijing to report on the talks. China, an ally of the communist North, has been the host of stalled six-nation disarmament talks.
North Korea missed a December 31 2007 deadline to produce a nuclear inventory and full disclosure of its proliferation activities. While other work to disable a nuclear reactor has continued, the delayed document has soured the atmosphere of talks meant to shutter North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme and improve the nation’s standing in the world.