New York Times: Iran has never stopped 20 percent uranium enrichment, Iran’s top nuclear official said on Wednesday, contradicting an influential lawmaker who last week said the country had voluntarily halted its production.
The New York Times
By THOMAS ERDBRINK
TEHRAN — Iran has never stopped 20 percent uranium enrichment, Iran’s top nuclear official said on Wednesday, contradicting an influential lawmaker who last week said the country had voluntarily halted its production.
“Twenty percent uranium and nuclear plates are being produced inside the country and there has never been a halt in the production trend,” the official, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was quoted as saying by the Icana news agency, which is the mouthpiece of Iran’s Parliament.
Iran has a stockpile of nearly 300 kilograms of uranium enriched up to 20 percent, which it says is needed to power a reactor in Tehran, but analysts say Iran has produced enough fuel to last years.
Last week Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, a lawmaker who is the deputy head of the national security and foreign policy committee, announced that the country had stopped enriching uranium up to 20 percent, telling Icana that “the site has the required fuel at the moment and there is no need for more production.”
The remarks by Mr. Hosseini were seen as a possible indication that Iran was willing to compromise over its enriched uranium stockpile in negotiations with the big powers over the country’s disputed nuclear program, which the West says is a guise for reaching the capability to make nuclear weapons. Iran says its activities are purely peaceful.
Mr. Hosseini later said he had been misquoted but did not specify how. The committee’s chairman, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, denied Iran had ceased production.
While Mr. Salehi was correcting Mr. Hosseini, Mr. Salehi was corrected concerning another matter on Wednesday by the minister of intelligence, Mahmoud Alavi. He said Mr. Salehi’s recent claims that four “nuclear saboteurs” had been arrested after they tried to steal nuclear secrets from a power plant were inaccurate.
Mr. Alavi said the four suspects had been seeking scrap metal, according to the semiofficial Islamic Students’ News Agency. The men had dug a hole under a fence around the power plant in order to sneak the purloined scrap metal out and sell it, he said.
“These people were thieves, not nuclear saboteurs,” the minister said. “They were from a village close to the power plant, and they had done such things before.”