elbaradei 298 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran has begun constructing a new nuclear reactor without any foreign assistance, the head of Iran's nuclear agency, Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh reported late Tuesday.
"As per President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad's demand, the construction the first independent, 360 megawatt reactor has already started," an agency statement read.
Speaking at a conference on Iran's nuclear program, Aghazadeh said that "The enemies know that they cannot affect our people's determination to achieve nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and therefore they are trying to create voices of dissent."
Aghazadeh's statement came after Iranian Foreign Minister denied earlier Tuesday the remark by the UN nuclear chief that his country had temporarily slowed its nuclear program, insisting that Iran's enrichment of uranium was continuing unabated.
"Iran's legitimate activities with the aim of producing fuel ... is continuing its natural trend," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a press conference. "There has been no change in that course."
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said Monday that Iran appeared to have at least temporarily paused on the development of its uranium enrichment program. Enriched uranium is used to fuel nuclear power stations and, taken to a higher degree, can be used in the manufacture of nuclear bombs.
Speaking to reporters in Vienna, ElBaradei said: "I do not believe that the number of centrifuges has increased, nor do I believe that [new] nuclear material has been introduced to the centrifuges [in the enrichment center] at Natanz."
The IAEA has installed cameras at the enrichment center in Natanz.
Iran's Atomic Energy Organization also said Tuesday there had been no change in the enrichment schedule.
"Iran's enrichment activities in Natanz are continuing as planned. No change has been made," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the organization as saying in a statement.
The UN Security Council's permanent members and Germany are currently discussing strengthening sanctions imposed on Iran in December for its refusal to halt enrichment.