Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Iran Increases Uranium Enrichment to 4.8% From 3.6% in 2 Weeks

Marc Wolfensberger, Bloomberg:
Iranian scientists have increased their enrichment of uranium to a 4.8 percent concentration, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, said.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month said Iran had joined the ``nuclear club'' on April 9 by enriching uranium to 3.5 percent. United Nations inspectors on April 28 confirmed that by April 16 Iran had enriched uranium to 3.6 percent. A concentration of 3 to 5 percent is needed to fuel a power plant, while 90 percent is required for a weapon, according to the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Maryland. READ MORE

``Enrichment of more than 5 percent is not part of Iran's program,'' Aghazadeh told the state-run Iranian Student News Agency today. ``This level of enrichment for producing nuclear fuel is sufficient.''

The UN Security Council is preparing a resolution calling on Iran to suspend the enrichment work, Nicholas Burns, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, said today. Iran ignored an April 28 deadline set by the council for the Islamic Republic to halt the program. The U.S. suspects Iran plans to build a bomb, while Iran says the aim is to generate electricity.

The U.S. is joined by the U.K. and France in the diplomatic offensive at the Security Council to pressure Iran to suspend its research and allow wider inspections. Delegates from the three nations, along with Russia and China, are meeting today in Paris to discuss the dispute. German envoys are joining the five delegations, which represent the permanent members of the council and hold veto power over resolutions.

Iran's parliament this week agreed to allocate an additional $212 million to finish the construction of the country's first nuclear plant, in Bushehr, state-run Iran News reported today, citing Gholam Hossein Elham, a government spokesman.

The Islamic Republic has already paid Russia as much as $1 billion to build the plant capable of generating about 1,000 megawatts of electricity. The construction has faced numerous delays and should be completed by the end of this year.

To contact the reporters on this story: Marc Wolfensberger in Tehran at; Ladane Nasseri in Tehran