08 February 2010
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has shocked the international community with his announcement that Iran would immediately start producing 20-percent-enriched uranium for use in its reactor in Tehran. Ahmadinejad only last week suggested that his regime might be willing to accept a proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to enrich Iranian uranium abroad.
“We had told [the inspectors of the IAEA] to come and have a swap, although we could produce the 20 per cent enriched fuel ourselves,” Ahmadinejad said at a ceremony marking the latest Iranian laser technology achievements, broadcast live on state television. He added: “We gave them two to three months for such a deal. They started a new game, and now I ask [Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization] to start work on the production of 20-percent fuel, using the centrifuges.” However, Ahmadinejad said the door for an agreement with the West on this issue was still open.
Salehi said on Monday that Iran would build ten new enrichment facilities in the next four years and immediately inform the IAEA of the decision. "We will send this letter [to the IAEA] on Monday and then start enrichment on Tuesday in the presence of inspectors and observers from the IAEA."
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed strong concerns about the latest development. “The international community has offered the Iranian government multiple opportunities to provide reassurance of its intentions. The results have been very disappointing. If the international community will stand together and bring pressure on the Iranian government, I believe there is still time for sanctions and pressure to work. But we must all work together.”
A spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office said: "Reports that Iran is planning to enrich some of their fuel to 20-percent level are clearly a matter of serious concern." German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said the international community should make it clear to Iran that "patience is at an end.”
On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told the Munich Security Conference that a deal with the IAEA was close to being finalized. "The amount of uranium is negotiable, but I am confident that a solution can be found,” he was quoted as saying. However, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said Mottaki had not presented any new proposals at a meeting on Saturday in Munich, Germany.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei again issued threats against Israel and said that not even the might of the West could save it now. Iranian media cited Khamenei as telling the head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement on Sunday that Israel's destruction was imminent and the will of Allah, and that the support of America and European nations could do nothing to prevent the Jewish state's downfall.
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