Iran says it’s no longer interested in talking with the West about swapping nuclear fuel rather than making its own.
Iran says it wants to make fuel to supply a reactor for medical purposes. Western nations, who accuse Iran of pursuing a nuclear-weapons program, offered in 2009 to trade low-enriched nuclear fuel for any high-enriched nuclear fuel produced in Iran.
"We will no longer negotiate a fuel swap and a halt to our production of fuel," Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization chief, Fereydoun Abbasi, told the official Islamic Republic News Agency on Monday. "The United States is not a safe country with which we can negotiate a fuel swap or any other issue."
The U.N. Security Council has ordered Tehran to halt all uranium enrichment until the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Iran, which denies that it seeks nuclear weapons, has continued its enrichment work. Abbasi said earlier this month that the country was moving some of the centrifuges used in the enrichment process to an underground site near the holy city of Qom. The move is presumably to protect the equipment from any outside military attack aimed at wiping out Iran’s nuclear program.
Abbasi said Monday that Iran had produced “enough” uranium at the 20% enrichment level for its Tehran reactor, and would continue production. The 20% enrichment falls well short of the level needed to make nuclear weapons.
"From a scientific and technical point of view, Iran has no problems to make fuel at 20%," he said, admitting, however, that there had been some delays linked to "the installation of some equipment."
Abbasi also said Iran had asked the international nuclear agency to clarify any new questions about Iran’s nuclear program. An official with the International Atomic Energy Agency toured Iranian nuclear sites earlier this month, including sites where uranium is enriched.
"We have asked them to give us their key allegations, with documents and proof, so that we could examine them, and told the IAEA that if we were to discuss these issues with them they would concern only a limited number" of claims, he said.
Additionally, the Iranian nuclear official confirmed that the country’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, being built with Russian help, had hit what officials described as some delays in testing. It would open at the end of autumn rather than in the now-ending Islamic holy month of Ramadan, as planned, he said.
-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran
Photo: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad touring an Iranian nuclear facility. Credit: Reuters