TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday Iran will now enrich its uranium to an even higher level, defying a U.N. call to halt the process due to fears over the country’s nuclear program.
Ahmadinejad expressed frustration with negotiations over a U.N.-backed deal to swap Iran’s low-enriched uranium for higher-enriched fuel rods to power its medical research reactor.
“I declare here that with the grace of God, the Iranian nation will produce 20 percent (enriched uranium) and anything it needs itself,” Ahmadinejad told a cheering crowd of thousands in the southern city Isfahan.
“We told them, give us the 20 percent fuel (in an exchange),” he said. “But then they started adding conditions. So we said, if you want to give us the fuel we’ll take it. If not, then fine and goodbye.”
The defiant call is similar into tone to the president’s announcement Sunday that the country would boost its nuclear activity 10-fold, despite the widespread belief that Iran simply does not have the resources to match its boasts.
Iran currently has one operating enrichment facility, at the central town of Natanz, which has churned out around 3,300 pounds (1,500 kilograms) of 3.5 percent enriched uranium over the past years.
The research reactor in Tehran, however, needs uranium enriched to 20 percent.
Enriching uranium even further, to levels around 90 percent, however, results in material suitable for a nuclear war head, something the West feels Iran is striving to do secretly.
The idea behind the swap was to get the bulk of Iran’s uranium out of the country so it would not have enough material build a bomb.
Iran denies the charge and insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.