Monday, May 01, 2006

Iran admits to producing higher grade uranium

The Age:

By Tehran

May 1, 2006

Iran has enriched uranium to more than 4 per cent, an Iranian official said, a level higher than Iran previously told the UN nuclear watchdog but still well below the range needed to make nuclear weapons.

Iran had told the International Atomic Energy Agency two weeks ago that it had enriched uranium to 3.6 per cent, a level which the agency confirmed from samples.

According to experts, uranium enriched to a range of 3 to 5 per cent is used in atomic power reactors.

Uranium needs to be enriched to 80 per cent or more to make nuclear weapons, which is what the West fears Iran wants.

"We have done enrichment in the range of above 4 per cent," Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency, said on Iranian state television.

He also repeated Iran's position that it would not give up enrichment, describing it as an "issue of life and death for Iranian society" and saying the goal enjoyed broad support.

"It is up to Iran to decide if it will keep enrichment at a pilot level or move towards an industrial scale," he said.

- US and Iranian officials held talks on Iraq in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region "a while ago", Iraq's al-Sharqiya television quoted President Jalal Talabani as saying.

US, Iranian and Iraqi officials could not confirm the report.

According to Sharqiya, Mr Talabani told Iraqi and Arab writers during a spring cultural festival that the talks took place in the lakeside mountain resort of Dukan and were "dedicated to the Iraqi issue".

It said Mr Talabani, a Kurd, expected further meetings on the matter.

Iranian and US officials have said they would hold talks to discuss Iraq, without giving a date. A spokesman at the American embassy in Baghdad said he was unaware of such a meeting. There was no immediate comment from Tehran.

The US accuses Iran of fuelling sectarian violence in Iraq, a charge dismissed by Tehran, which says the presence of US troops is to blame.

Both sides had said any such talks would only cover Iraq, although some analysts said it could open a conduit for discussion of other issues, particularly the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

- Reuters

TEHRAN AND THE UNNEXT STEP

UN ambassadors from the United States, Britain and France today begin drafting a resolution they hope to introduce within a week. The measure would legally obligate Iran to comply with the council's demands.

LEGAL BASIS

The resolution would be adopted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which makes council resolutions mandatory under international law.

SECOND RESOLUTION

If Tehran refuses to comply, the Western powers will attempt to impose targeted sanctions against individuals in Iran.

OBJECTIONS

Russia and China, which have Security Council veto power, fear too much pressure on Iran would be self-defeating or precipitate an oil crisis. Both oppose sanctions and worry the United States would use a tough council resolution to justify military action.

IRAN'S POSITION

Iran argues that nuclear inspectors, after three years of scrutiny, have not found a weapons program. But its diplomats say Tehran has offered to slow down nuclear programs if the Security Council takes no action.

MEETINGS

No date is set for a vote on a UN resolution, which usually takes longer to negotiate than its sponsors predict. Senior foreign ministry officials from the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany meet in Paris tomorrow and foreign ministers from the same countries will meet at the UN on May 9.

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