Los Angeles Times: Iranian officials said Wednesday that Iran would soon resume its controversial nuclear work, and that scientists had developed solid-fuel technology to improve the accuracy of missiles already able to reach Israel and nearby U.S. bases. The tough talk comes just days before Iran’s new president is to be sworn in. Los Angeles Times
The outgoing president tells reporters the nation also has improved the technology of its medium-range missiles.
By Megan K. Stack, Times Staff Writer
CAIRO Iranian officials said Wednesday that Iran would soon resume its controversial nuclear work, and that scientists had developed solid-fuel technology to improve the accuracy of missiles already able to reach Israel and nearby U.S. bases.
The tough talk comes just days before Iran’s new president is to be sworn in. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the ultraconservative mayor of Tehran who was the upset victor in this summer’s presidential election, has criticized his country’s nuclear negotiators for caving in to pressure from the West.
In November, Iran froze activities related to uranium enrichment to build trust in talks with Europe. But the suspension was always described by Tehran as a temporary concession, and officials argue vehemently that the nation has the right to develop nuclear technology. Iran says it wants the technology to build power plants, but the United States suspects it of working to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran won’t immediately resume enrichment activity, outgoing President Mohammad Khatami told reporters Wednesday. But scientists will soon go back to work converting uranium to gas, which can then be enriched to make weapons or fuel for power plants.
Iran has been waiting for European negotiators, who have the backing of Washington, to put together a package of economic incentives aimed at persuading Tehran to give up its nuclear ambitions. The proposal is due in early August.
But Khatami said Wednesday that Iran would resume the conversion work at its plant in Isfahan after the European proposal is delivered with or without the approval of the Europeans.
“It was expected that they will agree to Isfahan restarting activities,” Khatami told reporters. “We prefer to do it with their agreement. If they don’t, then the decision to resume activities in Isfahan has already been taken by the ruling system.”
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani told Associated Press that Iran had taken an “important step forward” with a successful test of a solid-fuel engine for its Shahab-3 missile.
The medium-range Shahab the name means “shooting star” in Farsi is capable of carrying a warhead into Israel. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have had them since 2002.
“We have fully achieved proficiency in solid-fuel technology in producing missiles,” Shamkhani said Wednesday. It was Iran’s first acknowledgment that it has developed the technology, which can make missiles more accurate as well as increase their range.
Several analysts saw the announcement as something of a boast, however. Solid-fuel technology is difficult to develop, having presented challenges to such nations as China and the former Soviet Union.
“It’s an important step forward, an important achievement. It’s a locally developed achievement,” Shamkhani said.
No test flight of the Shahab-3 has been carried out with solid fuel, Shamkhani said. But Iran has used solid fuel with the Fateh-110, a surface-to-surface guided missile with a range of just over 100 miles.