Iran defiant on enrichment ahead of possible nuclear talks

Tue Dec 18, 2012 9:25am EST
 

By Yeganeh Torbati

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran will not stop higher-grade uranium enrichment in response to external demands, its top nuclear energy official was quoted as saying on Tuesday, signaling a tough bargaining stance ahead of planned new talks with world powers.

The West wants Iran to halt enrichment of uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent as it represents a significant step closer to the level that would be required to make nuclear bombs. Iran says it needs this higher-grade uranium to run its medical research reactor in Tehran.

Israel has threatened air strikes on Iran if its nuclear work is not curbed through diplomacy or sanctions, raising the specter of a Middle East war damaging to the global economy.

Iran "will not suspend 20 percent uranium enrichment because of the demands of others," said Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) reported.

Iran "will produce 20 percent enriched uranium to meet its needs and for however long it is required."

He did not specify what he meant by "needs". Western diplomats say Iran already has made sufficient amounts to fuel its Tehran Research Reactor for several years. Abbasi-Davani has in the past said Iran plans to build another research reactor.

The European Union quickly responded to Abbasi-Davani's comments, saying Iran must come to grips with increasing international disquiet over the ultimate purpose of its uranium enrichment program to resolve the protracted dispute.

"Iran has to address the immediate key concern, which is the issue of 20 percent enrichment, by taking an initial comprehensive confidence-building step in this area, thereby creating space for more diplomacy and negotiations," the spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.   Continued...

 
Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani attends a conference to mark the martyrs of terrorism in Tehran September 6, 2011. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl