Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Iran Enriches Uranium for the First Time

Ali Akbar Dareini, AP:
Iran has successfully enriched uranium for the first time, a major development in its quest to develop nuclear fuel, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani said Tuesday.

Current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad added that the country "will soon join the club of countries with nuclear technology." READ MORE

The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran stop all uranium enrichment activity by April 28. Iran has rejected the demand, saying it has a right to develop the process.

The comments by the Iranian officials came as the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, was due to visit Tehran this week for talks on the nuclear standoff.

Officials with his International Atomic Energy Agency have said he is hoping to win at least partial concessions from Iran. IAEA inspectors are currently in Iran visiting two key facilities.

Speaking to a crowd in northeastern Iran, Ahmadinejad was quoted by state television as saying, "Enemies can't dissuade the Iranian nation from the path of progress that it has chosen."

Iran's nuclear chief, Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said Iran has produced 110 tons of uranium gas, the feedstock for enrichment. The amount is nearly twice the 60 tons of uranium hexaflouride, or UF-6, gas that Iran said last year that it had produced.

Aghazadeh made the announcement during a nationally televised speech in the northeastern city of Mashhad, attended by top military commanders and lawmakers.

Ahmadinejad had been expected to announce the successful uranium enrichment Tuesday in a nationally televised speech. But Rafsanjani - head of the powerful Expediency Council, a key governing body - released the news first in an interview with the Kuwait News Agency in Tehran. Soon after, the Expediency Council confirmed the announcement.