Iran's President Announces Enriched Uranium Success
President Ahmedinejad has told his people that Iran is now "a nuclear state". In a televised speech, he said that Iran had produced its first consignment of enriched uranium, and would soon treble its output.
These announcements came as the country celebrated the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. Thousands of government supporters joined rallies across the country, while security forces warned opposition supporters to keep off the streets.
Two days earlier, Ahmedinejad revealed that it had begun to make higher grade atomic fuel, and that the world would have to "take note" of this year’s anniversary celebrations.
The west has always suspected that Iran wishes to develop its nuclear program for military ends. This has been consistently denied, with Iranian officials and politicians insisting the program is entirely peaceful.
Iran claims it is adhering to the terms of the international Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which limits the levels to which a country may enrich uranium. Iran has now announced the production of 20% enriched uranium, which is not in any way suitable for nuclear weapons.
The long-standing international concern is that the process of enrichment is, however, the same for nuclear power production and for weaponry. Iran is in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions that ordered the country to suspend all production of uranium.
Iran’s riposte is that the resolutions are the result of political pressure from the US and its allies. It maintains that it will not yield to outside pressure: "The Iranian nation will not succumb to bullying, invasion and the violation of its rights,: the President has said.
During the latter part of 2009, Iran was involved in protracted negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concerning the development of its nuclear program, but progress has been limited.
The IAEA reported in September 2009 that there was no "credible evidence" of an Iranian weapons attempt. But the authority has also reported stalemate in many areas.
It has refused to suspend enrichment, work on heavy water projects. More recently, negotiations have concentrated on moves to transport Iranian uranium for processing in other countries, such as Russia and France.
The processed material would then be returned as fuel rods to be used in a small research reactor Iran has producing medical isotopes.
The intention was to remove almost all Iran's uranium in a single shipment; Iran instead proposed it should be moved in small quantities. The issue remains unresolved.
International concerns were heightened when a hitherto secret facility at Qom was revealed. Iran maintained it had obeyed the rules in declaring its existence, but suspicions have not been fully allayed.
The latest announcement by Ahmedinejad that Iran has produced its first consignment of enriched fuel promises to harden international resolve to prevent the possible advance to weapons-grade material.
US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday the US and its allies were moving "fairly quickly" toward adding new sanctions on Iran, in an attempt to curb its nuclear program.
On Wednesday, the US followed up its promise and increased sanctions against companies connected to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
The same day, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the US and its European allies were pushing Russia towards agreeing to further sanctions on Iran.
"It's Iran's version of nuclear brinksmanship," said a Iranian foreign policy expert.
"The message from Tehran is clear. There is cause for a pause on the part of Washington and London in their unreasonable rejection of Iran's program."
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