TEHRAN (AFP) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hinted on Sunday that Iran was determined to enrich uranium to 20 percent level if Western powers fail to accept Tehran’s counter-proposal concerning a UN-brokered nuclear fuel deal.
Ahmadinejad said Iran will make an announcement regarding the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity when the nation marks next month the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution which toppled the US-backed shah.
“Iran has given a chance to Western countries,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by Fars news agency when asked by reporters about Iran’s deadline to world powers over the nuclear fuel deal and when Tehran will produce 20 percent enriched uranium.
“Therefore, during the 10 days of dawn (February 1 to 11) we will announce good news regarding the production of 20 percent enriched fuel in our country,” he said referring to the period marking the 1979 Islamic revolution.
“This news is so sweet that it will make any Iranian and any freedom loving person in the world happy.
“This news is about Iran’s scientific advancement,” Fars quoted the president as saying.
The UN atomic watchdog has offered a proposal which sees the bulk of Iran’s low-enriched uranium being sent to Russia and France in one shot for further enrichment to 20 percent level and then returned as fuel for a Tehran research reactor.
Iranian officials, however, have offered a counter-proposal of a phased fuel swap and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki gave the West a two-month “ultimatum” to accept the Iranian plan.
Iranian officials have threatened that Tehran will enrich uranium on its own to the 20 percent level if the West fails to meet its end January deadline on the counter-proposal.
World powers led by Washington are against Iran enriching uranium, the core of the controversy concerning Tehran’s nuclear programme.
They suspect Iran is enriching uranium — despite three sets of UN sanctions — to make atomic weapons. Tehran denies the charge saying its nuclear programme is solely aimed at generating electricity.
Western powers have indicated that Iran had effectively rejected the UN-brokered proposal put forward in talks in Vienna hosted by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog.
But Mottaki insists Iran has not rejected “the principle” of the nuclear fuel deal.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, amid increasing international frustration with Tehran, has vowed Washington “will not be waited out” and “not back down” in the face of Iran’s defiance.
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, meanwhile, will travel to Moscow on Tuesday for high level talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, according to ISNA news agency.
The report said Jalili will hold talks involving regional and international issues during his three day visit.
Moscow has long been a nuclear partner of Tehran and has built Iran’s first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr but it is still to be operational.
In recent months Medvedev has indicated that Moscow could back fresh sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.
Earlier this week Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said Moscow does “regret” Iran’s refusal to accept the UN-brokered fuel plan.
He noted that the UN Security Council had the capacity to “study further measures on Iran” but did not come out explicitly in support of further sanctions against Tehran.
“Acting with a logic of punishing Iran… is not a sober approach,” he said.