23 February 2010
The head of Iran's nuclear energy agency has said two new uranium enrichment facilities would be built within the next year. Ali Akbar Salehi, who is also the country’s vice-president, said the new facilities would be built in the mountains to protect them from any military attack. Salehi said the facilities would use new and more advanced centrifuges. The two sites are reportedly the first of ten to be built in a plan announced by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year. The centrifuges might allow the Iranians to speed up the development of nuclear material.
On Tuesday, Tehran said it was willing to swap low-grade for high-grade uranium but that the exchange of nuclear fuel had to be carried out on its own territory. "In order to bring about a constructive interaction, we have declared our readiness for fuel swap, provided it is done within the country," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as quoted by ‘Reuters’ as saying. "We are prepared for a fuel swap even though we do not regard this condition of supplying fuel to the Tehran research reactor through a swap as correct."
Meanwhile, the Chinese government reiterated its call for greater diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear program, despite growing pressure for more UN sanctions. "China believes that in the current stage all relevant parties should continue deepening diplomatic efforts to maintain and push forward the process of talks and negotiations," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said at a press conference in Beijing, adding: "We hope relevant parties can show flexibility to create conditions for completely and properly solving the Iran nuclear problem through diplomatic efforts."
In the United States Congress, a group of lawmakers called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reveal the names of companies with "problematic" business dealings with Iran and sanction them. In a letter the 30 Republican and Democratic lawmakers urged Clinton to the firms under the Iran Sanctions Act, which authorizes sanctions against non-US companies that invest more than 20 million dollars in Iran's oil and gas sectors. The State Department recently told members of Congress that it had completed a preliminary investigation of companies that could be in violation of the law and has moved on to examining firms it views as "problematic."
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