TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran’s top nuclear official said Saturday that his country will enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel in Iran despite the U.S.-led international drive to curb such efforts.
"For me, there is no doubt that the process of producing nuclear fuel in Iran will be accomplished," Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of the Atomic Organization of Iran, said during a press conference. "There is no doubt that we have to carry out uranium enrichment."
Aghazadeh, who is also an Iranian vice president, gave no date for when the processes would start, but stressed they would do so at some stage.
Iran has rejected a European offer to shift its enrichment program to Russia to try break the deadlock over its nuclear program. The plan envisaged Moscow ensuring nuclear material would be enriched only to fuel levels and not weapons-grade levels for atomic warheads.
The United States claims Iran’s nuclear program is geared toward producing atomic weapons and is pushing for Tehran to be hauled before the U.N. Security Council. Iran denies the American claims, saying its nuclear program is aimed at producing electricity.
"Iran can’t trust promises by Europeans that it will deliver nuclear fuel," Aghazadeh told reporters in Tehran. "There is no guarantee that the west will supply us with nuclear fuel."
Aghazadeh claimed Iran owns 90 tons of nuclear material that is currently being held in European countries which are refusing to release it.
In an apparent goodwill gesture, Aghazadeh said "Iran would not inject uranium gas into centrifuges and won’t carry out enrichment" during upcoming Iranian talks with European negotiators.
No date has been set for the talks between Iran and the EU3: France, Germany and Britain, which broke off in August. They had been set to resume in early December but did not. The parties maintain they are committed to resuming negotiations.
Aghazadeh’s comments fall in line with Iran’s stated policy to maintain full control of its nuclear program.
They also come amid heightened tensions between Iran and the international community after recent anti-Israel remarks made by Iran’s hard-line president.
Iran froze its uranium enrichment program in November 2004 as a goodwill gesture to European negotiators trying to permanently halt the works, which can produce fuel for either nuclear reactors or weapons.
But Iran restarted uranium conversion, a step toward enrichment, in August after talks broke down.
Aghazadeh also said Iran plans to construct a 360 megawatt nuclear power plant based on domestic technology in Dar Khovin, in Khuzestan province in southwestern Iran.
Iran also wants to produce 2,000 megawatts of electricity by building nuclear power plants with foreign help, he added.
On Friday, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said the world was losing patience with Iran in the drawn-out negotiations over its nuclear program.
"They are inching forward and I’m asking them to leap forward," ElBaradei told reporters in Oslo. He said he hopes outstanding nuclear issues will be clarified by the time he presents his next report on Iran in March, because "the international community is losing patience with the nature of that program."
In response to ElBaradei’s comments, Aghazadeh said: "Iran is also losing its patience with them