Iran: 20 more enrichment sites needed

Irans top nuclear offic

Bushehr 248.88 (photo credit: )
Bushehr 248.88
(photo credit: )
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization and previously Iran's representative in the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on Saturday that Iran needs to establish 20 additional uranium enrichment sites to fuel the country's nuclear reactors, Israel Radio reported. Salehi further said that Iran had no intention of withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Earlier this weekend, there was speculation that Iran would pull out of the treaty following statements by Iranian nuclear official Abolfazl Zohrehvand that Teheran will not answer to the UN nuclear watchdog beyond the barest minimum required under the NPT. Speaking on Friday, Zohrehvand said this limited cooperation would apply to the building of 10 new uranium enrichment facilities. Teheran on Sunday announced it intends to build the new sites. The statement followed a strong rebuke from the Vienna-based UN agency and spiked Western concerns over Iran's nuclear intentions. Zohrehvand said Iran would only inform the International Atomic Energy Agency after it installs the new sites - not while their construction is in the planning stages, as demanded by the UN watchdog. Zohrevand's comments were carried by the official IRNA news agency. The diplomatic fallout from the November 27 IAEA resolution continued to be felt on Thursday as the United States warned Iran that time was running out to avoid sanctions due to its nuclear program. According to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, Teheran's deadline was the end of the year for responding to international demands to halt enrichment and allow more complete inspection of its nuclear facilities . Iran has ignored a deal offered by the Western powers that would have Iran send its low-enriched uranium abroad for enriching or use in peaceful energy production. Gibbs said it was "pretty clear" that the Iranians were backing out of that agreement. Also Thursday Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said the resolution would "not stop Iran from developing its nuclear program," in the words of the state-run news agency Press TV, which was quoting a statement by Iran's foreign ministry. Mottaki said Teheran was fully cooperating with the IAEA and that the Geneva-based agency has consistently verified the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program. He accused Western powers of politicizing the issue. China, too, which voted in favor of the resolution censuring Iran, urged Teheran on Thursday to cooperate with the IAEA and to resolve the dispute with the international watchdog quickly. According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, "China's vote was consistent with its position on the Iran nuclear issue, which urged the parties involved to resolve the issue through dialogue and negotiation," the official Xinhua news agency reported. Qin added that China would push forward the process of a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear issue. On Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that his country will enrich uranium to a much higher level than previously planned - a fresh rejection of the international efforts to curb the country's nuclear program. "I declare here that with the grace of God, the Iranian nation will produce 20 percent fuel and anything it needs itself," Ahmadinejad told a cheering crowd in the central city of Isfahan. Ahmadinejad said Teheran was ready to further enrich some of its present stockpile - now at 3.5% to 20%, the grade needed to create fuel for a small medical research reactor in the Iranian capital. Meanwhile, Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili met with Hamas leaders during a visit to Syria on Thursday. The Palestinian party's deputy head Moussa Abu Marzouk said they discussed Palestinian affairs but did not provide any further details.