AFP: Iran said on Saturday it will enrich uranium, the most controversial part of its atomic programme, to the 20-percent purity required for a research reactor in Tehran if third-party deals fail. By Jay Deshmukh
TEHRAN, Iran (AFP) — Iran said on Saturday it will enrich uranium, the most controversial part of its atomic programme, to the 20-percent purity required for a research reactor in Tehran if third-party deals fail.
Ali Shirzadian, spokesman of Iran Atomic Energy Organisation, said the UN atomic watchdog would be responsible if any third-party deal to process high grade uranium broke down.
He also expressed hope the United States would not "disturb" any such deal.
"We will write a letter and announce to the (International Atomic Energy Agency) agency that Iran will act directly to supply the fuel for the Tehran reactor," ISNA news agency quoted Shirzadian as saying when asked what would happen if proposed third-party deals fail.
Officials from Iran, the United States, Russia, France and the IAEA are to meet in Vienna on October 19 to work out the modalities for deals under which Tehran has said it is ready to buy 20 percent pure uranium from abroad.
"Iran fully owns the enrichment technology and therefore it will sit at the negotiating table with leverage," Shirzadian said, adding that Tehran prefers to "buy the fuel for the Tehran reactor in bulk as it is more economical."
He said the reactor needs around 200 kilogrammes (440 pounds) of 20 percent pure uranium to operate, but did not say how long that would last.
During recent talks in Geneva between Tehran and six major world powers, Iran agreed to buy the higher grade uranium required from overseas suppliers.
Uranium enrichment lies at the heart of Western concerns about the Iranian nuclear programme. The sensitive process can produce fuel for civilian nuclear reactors or, in highly extended form, the fissile core of an atomic bomb.
Western powers suspect Tehran's nuclear programme is aimed at making atomic weapons, a charge vociferously denied by Iran.
Global powers were outraged after Iran, just days ahead of the Geneva talks, revealed to the IAEA that it was building a second enrichment plant near the holy city of Qom.
During the talks Tehran agreed to open the facility for IAEA inspection and following last week's visit of Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the agency, it was decided that UN inspectors would check the plant on October 25.
Soon after the revelation of the new facility, ElBaradei accused Iran of being on the "wrong side of the law" for having kept the building of the plant secret, a charge also denied by Iranian officials.
Shirzadian said Tehran will enter the Vienna talks and "if an agreement is arrived at and then not implemented for any reason, the agency and the country which broke it will be blamed."
"If the United States wants to disturb … it is not a matter between Iran and the agency. It is a matter between the agency and the United States," Shirzadian added, suggesting that would be responsibility of the agency to tackle that issue and that Iran would proceed on its own for higher enrichment.
Ahmadinejad has previously indicated that Iran could even buy the 20 percent enriched uranium from US suppliers.
On Saturday, the state television website quoted him as saying that "the world must know that the Iranian nation … will not back down an inch from its revolutionary ideals." It did not elaborate.
Iranian observers claim US officials have been taking strong initiatives toward resolving the crisis surrounding the Iran nuclear programme as seen from direct talks between Tehran and Washington's delegations during the Geneva talks.
US delegation head William Burns held direct talks with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, the first such talks since diplomatic ties between the two countries broke in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The Iranian nuclear controversy is also expected to dominate US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's trip to Europe and Russia starting on Saturday.