Iran Nuclear NewsIran to hike atomic output despite possible talks

Iran to hike atomic output despite possible talks

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Reuters: An Iranian lawmaker dealing with foreign policy said on Sunday Iran will increase its production of nuclear fuel despite a possible resumption of talks with major powers over its disputed uranium enrichment programme.

TEHRAN (Reuters) – An Iranian lawmaker dealing with foreign policy said on Sunday Iran will increase its production of nuclear fuel despite a possible resumption of talks with major powers over its disputed uranium enrichment programme.

Iran will probably try to blunt international pressure on it to curb enrichment once it resumes talks with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. The venue and agenda of the talks have yet to be agreed upon.

“Iran will increase the production of nuclear fuel to secure its needs,” Esmail Kowsari, a member of parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Mehr news agency, without giving details.

Since the last round of talks between Iran and big powers in October 2009, Tehran has continued to stockpile low-enriched uranium (LEU) and now has enough for at least two atomic bombs, experts say, if it was refined to a much higher level.

Iran, a major oil producer, says it wants only LEU for the running of nuclear power plants to boost its electricity supply.

In remarks that could deepen Western suspicion Iran will try again to avoid addressing its enrichment drive, Kowsari joined other Iranian officials in asserting that Tehran may not discuss its nuclear programme at all.

“From the viewpoint of the Islamic Republic, the nuclear issue has been finished and raising that in this round of negotiations has no point,” he said, according to Mehr.

DIFFERING AGENDAS

Iranian officials have said Tehran would be willing to address general global political and economic issues.

Similar talks last year yielded a deal in principle under which Iran would have shipped out the bulk of its stock of low-enriched uranium in exchange for higher-enriched fuel for a Tehran reactor that makes isotopes for cancer care.

That understanding unravelled when Iran backed away from its terms and later started producing higher-enriched uranium itself, raising Western concerns about an advance towards the threshold of weapons-grade material.

In June, the U.N. Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran, reiterating its demand that it suspend enrichment — a process which some countries fear could lead to Iran producing bomb-quality fuel.

The Islamic Republic has also been hit by more far-reaching sanctions imposed by the United States and the EU, but President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed them as no more effective than a “used handkerchief.”

Ahmadinejad has also asked the powers to declare their opinion on Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal and whether they come to the table as Iran’s friend or foe — issues Western diplomats say are irrelevant to the essence of the talks.

Iran’s arch-foe Israel has not rule out striking Tehran militarily to prevent it from getting an atomic bomb, if diplomacy fails.

The six powers want Iran to suspend enrichment activities which can have both civilian and military uses, in exchange for trade and diplomatic benefits on offer since 2006.

(Reporting by Hashem Kalantari; writing by Ramin Mostafavi; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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