PRAGUE, 14 February 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The deputy secretary of Iran's Supreme National Council, Javad Vaidi, announced today the resumption of the small-scale enrichment of uranium at the country's main enrichment facility at Natanz.
Vaidi told journalists that only the preliminary phases have been launched and that his country needs more time to reach industrial-scale production of nuclear fuel, though he added, "this does not mean full-scale, as technically it is impossible at this phase to inject uranium into the 60,000 centrifuges in Natanz." Centrifuges are devices used in the enrichment process.
The Iranian nuclear negotiator added that activity at the Natanz facility resumed earlier this month following an order by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
All Eyes On Iran
The announcement came a day after diplomats in Vienna said that Iran has already begun the process of enriching uranium. It also comes 10 days after Iran was reported to the UN Security Council over its controversial nuclear activities.
The deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Saidi, today reiterated Iran's view that the move is politically motivated. "Our course is completely clear. It is based on international laws and what is happening [against Iran] is a political action that is based on no legal rule," he said.
Iranian officials have warned that according to a parliamentary bill, a report or a referral to the UN Security Council will result in the end of Tehran's voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment and the implementation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty's Additional Protocol. The protocol allows for, among other things, snap inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities.
Vaidi said today that based on the bill, Iran has no reason to go back to a suspension of its uranium-enrichment activities. But he added that Tehran will continue its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He called on the West not to create problems for Iran and said that "we are also not intending to create problems for them."
'All Doors Not Closed'
Dr. Said Mahmoudi, a professor of international law at Stockholm University, told RFE/RL that by resuming some uranium-enrichment activities Iran is trying to show that despite international pressure, it is determined to continue its nuclear activities. At the same time, Mahmoudi believes it is still possible for the issue to be resolved diplomatically.
"Iran wants to say now that it is determined but the doors are not closed," he said. "The main wish of all Western countries -- including the U.S. -- is that Iran agrees diplomatically to stop uranium enrichment for now and, if needed, to do it in Russia. Therefore the first wish is not a referral to the UN Security Council and, for that reason, even after this move by Iran the doors are not closed."
Iranian nuclear negotiator Vaidi said today that Tehran would send a delegation to Russia for talks on 20 February to discuss a proposal to enrich uranium on Russian soil. However, he said that Iran insists on enriching uranium on its own soil.
The two sides had been due to hold talks on 16 February, but Tehran announced on 13 February that the talks were delayed. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mihkail Kamynin said today that Tehran had requested the four-day delay for "technical reasons."
Russia's offer to enrich Iranian uranium is an attempt to allay Western fears that Iran could be seeking to produce nuclear weapons. Enriched uranium can be used as fuel in civilian nuclear reactors, but at a high level of enrichment it can also be used for producing nuclear bombs.
Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful. But the United States accuses Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons.
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