Ahmadinejad at UN 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran's hardline president on Sunday said his country was determined to expand its uranium enrichment program, announcing a plan to produce more nuclear fuel and calling allegations that Tehran was seeking nuclear weapons a "big lie."
Speaking to professors at Tehran University, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reinforced his rejection of demands by the US and its allies to stop enrichment, saying his country was committed to generating nuclear fuel for electricity.
"Allegations or charges by the United States than Iran is seeking nuclear weapons are a big lie," Ahmadinejad said during his speech, which was broadcast on state-run television.
The process of uranium enrichment can be used to produce electricity or build nuclear weapons, depending on the level of enrichment. The US alleges Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons, but Iran contends that its program is for peaceful purposes.
Ahmadinejad said in his speech that Iran is planning to install up to 100,000 centrifuges, which spin uranium gas into enriched material in order to produce nuclear fuel. He did not provide any more details or set a timeline, but installing so many centrifuges could take several years.
In February, Iran announced for the first time that it produced a batch of low-enriched uranium, using 164 centrifuges.
It also has said it plans to intall 3,000 centrifuges by the end of the year at its uranium enrichment plant in the central Iranian town of Natanz. Large-scale production of enriched uranium in Natanz would require 54,000 centrifuges.
The speech Sunday was one of several lately in which Ahmadinejad has said Iran will not give up its right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel and won't consider suspending it, even for a day.
"Not a single person has a right to give up the rights of the Iranian nation," he said.
Iran has been locked in a battle with the United States and some of its allies over its nuclear program. Tehran defied a UN Security Council deadline calling on it to suspend enrichment by Aug. 31 or face possible international sanctions.
But talks between Iranian and European officials have continued over a package of incentives that six countries - the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany - are offering Tehran in return for suspending its enrichment program and returning to full-scale negotiations.
Last week, envoys ended two days of talks in Berlin with no agreement on the enrichment issue but insisted they had "come to some positive conclusions" on ways to open broader discussions.