Jerusalem mum over Iran uranium sale claim

Israel mum over Iran cla

Israeli diplomatic officials would not comment on Wednesday on claims made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that several countries had offered to sell enriched uranium to the Islamic Republic. In an interview Wednesday with the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, Ahmadinejad is quoted as saying that "there have been some proposals by individual countries and groups of countries. We are ready to hold talks with anyone interested. Our experts will soon start talks with those sellers," according to a Reuters account of the interview. The Iranian president even offered to purchase enriched uranium from the United States, though the American government has said the Teheran regime is seeking the uranium to build a nuclear weapon. "We want to buy fuel. We can buy it from anywhere and America can be a seller," Ahmadinejad said. For its part, Iran claims all its nuclear activities, part of which it has kept hidden for years, are intended for civilian energy projects. The uranium Ahmadinejad claims is on offer is enriched to 20 percent purity, far below the 90% level needed for construction of a nuclear weapon. Western distrust of Iranian intentions was heightened in recent weeks after Iran admitted to constructing a secret underground uranium enrichment facility in the mountains outside Qom. The facility is relatively small, say Western sources, and thus not likely to be intended for a large-scale civilian energy program. Iran has agreed to discuss future international inspection of the Qom site. According to Iranian ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh, the newly-revealed site was constructed as a "contingency plan" for a possible Western attack on the country's nuclear installations. "We have been continuously threatened… by the Zionist regime of Israel and also during the Bush administration... It is unjustified for any country to just ignore these kind of threats. Therefore we had to have a contingency plan in order to have a sustained enrichment program," Soltanieh told the BBC's HARDtalk show on Wednesday. In seeking to stop Iranian nuclear enrichment, Western powers have launched an "engagement" process with the Iranian government, which included suggestions that countries such as France and Russia would themselves carry out most of the enrichment process for Iran in order to assure that the enrichment remained well below weaponization levels. Iran has yet to officially respond to this proposal.