TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Iran will inform the U.N. nuclear watchdog on progress in its 10 new uranium enrichment plants only six months ahead of starting production at the sites, the state news agency said on Friday.
In a defiant response to last week’s International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors vote rebuking Iran for building a second enrichment plant in secret, Tehran said on Sunday it would build 10 more sites like its IAEA-monitored one at Natanz.
The IAEA measure also urged a halt to all enrichment-related activity, unfettered IAEA inspections, assurances Iran is not hiding more sites, and full cooperation with an IAEA probe into allegations of past nuclear weapons research by Iran.
A senior Iranian diplomat involved in nuclear talks with the West said Iran would not cooperate with the IAEA beyond its basic safeguards pact, the official IRNA news agency reported.
“According to the safeguards, after installation of equipment (centrifuges) and only 180 days ahead of injecting gas into centrifuges … we should inform the IAEA,” Abolfazl Zohrehvand told IRNA. “And we will act within the framework of the safeguard,” the former Iranian ambassador to Italy said.
The IAEA has told Iran it violated its obligations by failing to declare the second enrichment site near Qom as soon as plans for it were drafted, under a tightened nuclear transparency statute that Iran accepted in 2003 — but unilaterally withdrew from in 2007 in protest at a first round of U.N. sanctions.
Iran said construction of the site in a mountain bunker began in 2007. It reported the project to the IAEA in September, saying it had been hidden due to Israeli threats to bomb Natanz.
The United States and Germany warned Iran on Thursday that it was rapidly approaching a December deadline to accept an IAEA-brokered nuclear cooperation deal with world powers.
Iran has backed off from the deal calling on it to send 75 percent of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia and France to be turned into fuel for a Tehran medical research reactor.
The West hoped that farming out a large amount of Iran’s LEU reserve for reprocessing would minimise the risk of Iran’s refining the material to high purity suitable for bombs. But hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday Iran would enrich its LEU stockpile to 20 percent purity needed for the medical isotope reactor, a step the West fears would usher Iran closer to the 80-90 percent grade for an atom bomb.
In talks with six world powers in Geneva on Oct. 1, Iran agreed in principle to the deal but has since balked. Iran has until the end of the year to agree to it or face the threat of tougher sanctions, U.S. officials say.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts to engage Iran with confidence-building measures have so far been fruitless.
Ahmadinejad ruled out further talks with six major powers on Iran’s enrichment, which the West sees as a cover to build bombs. Iran says the programme is only to generate electricity.