'Iran to go nuclear within month'
Energy official warns no country will contemplate strike on Teheran.
Ahmadinjead inspects an Iranian nuclear power plant Photo: Associated Press
Iran will join the global nuclear club within one month, according to the deputy research chief of the Islamic Republic’s Atomic Energy of Iran (AEOI).
The state-run Fars news agency on Tuesday quoted Behzad Soltani, who also serves as the secretary-general of the AEOI’s Scientific Cooperation Council, as saying that “no country would ever think about attacking Iran” once the nuclear threshold has been crossed.
“We do not intend to use the peaceful nuclear energy merely for generating electricity and energy. Rather, our next step would be expanding use of this technology,” Soltani reportedly said. Radiation, he said, can ensure that “foodstuffs, proteins and vegetables are preserved for a longer time and with a higher quality.”
Soltani added that construction work on a large-scale nuclear power plant and a smaller research reactor in the Iranian city of Arak is nearing completion and is now at 70 percent.
The technology, he said, would enable Iran to improve its political, economic and technological standing. “Iran’s mighty nuclear independence [will] intermingle with economic growth, expansion of technology and political power in the international arena,” Soltani suggested.
In the shadow of the nuclear conference in Washington, Iran expressed doubts Tuesday that China would back the US push for new sanctions against Teheran over its controversial nuclear program.
The comments came a day after Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed to work with the Americans on the issue during a meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington.
Chinese spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said China hopes all parties will step up diplomatic efforts and seek ways to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue through negotiations. “China and the United States share the same overall goal on the Iranian nuclear issue,” the Chinese statement said.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that did not mean Beijing was ready to support sanctions.
Teheran doesn’t “consider the statement as approval of the US stance and unfair actions,” he told reporters Tuesday. “Our interpretation is different,” Mehmanparast said, without elaborating.
Mehmanparast slammed the gathering as a “show,” saying a country that used nuclear weapons in the past “shouldn’t be hosting a summit that strives for nuclear disarmament.”
Iran has so far enriched uranium only to 3.5% and says it needs to enrich uranium to 20% to make fuel rods for a Teheran research reactor that produces medical isotopes. In February, Teheran said it would go ahead with the 20% enrichment and claimed it had already produced a small amount of such uranium.
A UN-backed plan last year offered Teheran the opportunity to get the fuel rods – which contain uranium that can no longer be used for weapons-grade material – in exchange for Iran’s stock of lower-level uranium.
Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said Tuesday that Iran was ready to hand over one ton of Iran’s lower-level uranium to the UN nuclear watchdog in exchange for about 100 kilograms of 20% enriched uranium.
But, Salehi said, the exchange would only be made if the International Atomic Energy Agency guards the ton somewhere inside Iran until the international community hands over the higher-enriched batch – an offer the international community is unlikely to go along with.