Tehran (AFP) June 23, 2010
Iran said on Wednesday it has produced more than 17 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium, as the nation's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei branded newly imposed sanctions a "confused" act.
"We have so far produced more than 17 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium and we can potentially produce five kilograms per month," Iran's atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi told the ISNA news agency.
World powers led by Washington want Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activity which they suspect masks a nuclear weapons drive, and on June 9 backed a UN Security Council resolution for a fourth set of sanctions on Tehran.
Enriched uranium can be used as fuel to power nuclear reactors as well as to make the fissile core of an atom bomb.
Tehran says its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.
Salehi said Iran was "not in a hurry" to produce 20 percent enriched uranium even if it can process five kilos every month.
"We will adjust the production in a way that the workshop for making the fuel plates is equipped," he said, referring to fuel made from the 20 percent enriched uranium and used to power a Tehran research reactor.
Iran started producing 20 percent enriched uranium in February on hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's orders.
World powers claim that the Islamic republic does not possess the technology required to convert the 20 percent enriched uranium into fuel plates for powering the reactor.
But Salehi said on June 16 that Iran has acquired the necessary technical expertise and by September next year the first batch of fuel plates will be ready.
Ahmadinejad had ordered the refining of uranium to 20 percent after a swap deal aimed at providing nuclear fuel to power the Tehran reactor and drafted by the UN atomic body last October hit deadlock.
That deal envisaged Iran sending its the 1,200 kilos of low-enriched uranium (LEU) -- to five percent purity -- to Russia and France for further refining to 20 percent and later to be converted into fuel plates.
The deal hit stalemate when both sides insisted on conditions unacceptable to the other.
Brazil and Turkey brokered a counter proposal in Tehran on May 17 under which Iran would send its LEU to Turkey in return for research reactor fuel to be supplied later.
But the world powers cold-shouldered that proposal and voted through a fourth set of sanctions, which had the effect of further tightening financial and military restrictions on Tehran.
Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said in Bulgaria on Wednesday he was aware that "there were concerns expressed by the Vienna Group" -- the United States, France and Russia -- over the May 17 fuel swap deal.
"I think now it is up to Iran to react to these," he told journalists.
Salehi told ISNA: "I am optimistic about an agreement with the Vienna group, but it may not happen soon. One should wait for a while."
A Tehran foreign ministry statement said representatives of Iran, Brazil and Turkey would meet soon.
Following a telephone call on Wednesday from Amorim to his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki, it was "decided to examine at a meeting soon... the follow-up to the Tehran agreement," it said.
Meanwhile, in his first reaction to the new punitive measures, Iran's all-powerful supreme leader Khamenei said on Wednesday the decision to impose new sanctions on Iran showed the helplessness of world powers.
"Their confused acts to adopt the resolution and the unrealistic exaggeration of sanctions followed by half-baked military threats are indications of the helplessness of the arrogant order in facing the great and respectable movement in the Islamic world," state television quoted the all-powerful cleric as saying.
earlier related report
During a two-day visit to Sofia, Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said he was aware that "there were concerns expressed by the Vienna Group" -- the United States, France and Russia -- over a May 17 fuel swap deal between Iran, Brazil and Turkey.
"I think now it is up to Iran to react to these," he told journalists.
Iran's tripartite deal to exchange 1,200 kilogrammes (2,640 pounds) of its low-enriched uranium for higher grade fuel was cold-shouldered by world powers with the UN, EU and US slapping new sets of sanctions on Tehran.
"My frank opinion is that sanctions do not help. But I am encouraged by the fact that Iran has had so far a rather flexible response," Amorim added.
In Tehran, a foreign ministry statement said that the three parties had decided to meet soon for talks.
Following a telephone call on Wednesday from Amorim to his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki, it was "decided to examine at a meeting soon... the follow-up to the Tehran agreement," the statement said.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov meanwhile noted that "it is most important at the moment not to take the decision by the UN Security Council for additional sanctions as closing the door for negotiations and talks with Iran."
"I hope the Iranian authorities will be ready to sit at the table for an open dialogue on all issues concerning their nuclear programme with the Vienna Group and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to find a solution to this situation," he added.
"I agree that maybe the sanctions do not close the door (to talks), I hope that this is the case. But I think that the rush to sanctions was a bit disappointing from our point of view," Amorim said.
He appeared encouraged that French President Nicolas Sarkozy was willing to continue negotiations with Iran, based on the Brazil and Turkey proposal, and he praised the "positive mood" in Iran's general response to that proposal.
"I think this is a good development."
Amorim added: "We have felt especially on the part of one of the members of the so-called Vienna Group, the willingness and the desire to have a continued engagement by Turkey and Brazil."
"And if this is also the desire of Iran, which I think it is, but also of the other two (Vienna Group members) we will be more than glad to help," he said.
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US: China, private banks helping to punish Iran
Washington (AFP) June 22, 2010
China and major international financial institutions have been increasingly willing to cut off Iran over its suspect nuclear program, top US officials assured skeptical lawmakers Tuesday. "China is increasingly aware of its own stake in effective international action against Iran and its nuclear ambitions," the number three US diplomat, William Burns, told the Senate Foreign relations Commit ... read more
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