TEHERAN, Iran — Iran began enriching uranium to a higher level Tuesday over the vociferous objections of the US and its allies who fear the process could eventually be used to give the Islamic republic nuclear weapons.
State television announced that the process began in the presence of inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog agency. Uranium has to be enriched to fuel nuclear power plants and Iran needs the 20 percent enriched fuel for a research reactor producing medical isotopes.
Enriching uranium to 90 percent, however, creates the material for nuclear weapons, which many countries are afraid Iran is seeking. Iran denies the charge.
France and the US said Monday Iran's action left no choice but to push harder for a fourth set of UN Security Council sanctions to punish Iran's nuclear defiance. Russia, which has close ties to Iran and has opposed new sanctions, appeared to edge closer to Washington's position, saying the new enrichment plans show the suspicions about Iran's intentions are well-founded.