DUBAI - Iran will not stop higher-grade enrichment of uranium
in response to external demands, Tehran's top nuclear official was quoted as
saying on Tuesday, signalling a tough bargaining stance ahead of planned new
talks with world powers.
Western powers want Iran to halt enrichment of
uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent as it represents a significant
step closer to the level that would be required to make nuclear bombs. Iran says
it needs uranium refined to 20 percent to run its medical research reactor in
"The Islamic Republic of Iran will not suspend 20 percent uranium
enrichment because of the demands of others," said Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, head
of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, according to the Iranian Students'
News Agency (ISNA).
"The Islamic Republic of Iran will produce 20 percent
enriched uranium to meet its needs and for however long it is required." He did
not specify what he meant by Iran's needs. Western diplomats say Iran already
has produced sufficient quantities to fuel its Tehran Research Reactor for
several years. Abbasi-Davani has in the past said Iran plans to build another
"Twenty percent enrichment is the right of the Iranian
nation for use in the Tehran reactor and it will defend this right with
authority," Abbasi-Davani said.
His comments renewed Iranian defiance in
negotiations with world powers that are expected to resume soon, aimed at
finding a peaceful solution to the decade-old dispute over Tehran's nuclear
ambitions. But he did not appear to categorically rule out that Tehran at some
point could shelve the activity.