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Iran could start uranium enrichment alone: Ahmadinejad

world Updated: Feb 08, 2010 08:42 IST

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned that his country would soon start enriching uranium to 20 per cent on its own if world powers "continue playing games" with the Islamic republic.

"We are still interested in cooperation (with the West), but if they wanted to continue playing games with the Iranian nation, then we would be prepared to do the 20 per cent by ourselves," he said on Sunday at a laser technology conference in Tehran.

Ahmadinejad said the Iranian Atomic Organisation (IAO) was ready to start the uranium enrichment and would eventually do so.

"I had given them (world powers) a time range of two to three months to accept the deal, but if they don't, (IAO chief Ali Akbar) Salehi should start the 20-per cent enrichment process," Ahmadinejad said.

He said last week that Iran was ready to complete a uranium exchange deal brokered in October by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Ahmadinejad said Iran was ready to export its 3.5-per cent low-enriched uranium for 20-per cent fuel processed by Russia and France for use in the Tehran nuclear reactor.

"The way is open for understanding (with the world powers), we never blocked the way, but we do not waste any time for irrelevant discussions and start the 20 per cent by ourselves," Ahmadinejad said.

Western officials at the annual Munich Security Conference over the weekend criticised Iran for not having a concrete plan for uranium exchange, and accused Tehran of pursuing a secret programme to manufacture an atomic bomb.

"We will not allow them to deprive Iran from technological progress and growth," Ahmadinejad said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Yukiya Amano on Saturday in Munich. Amano said Iran had not made any counterproposal for the uranium exchange.

Official news agency IRNA reported that Salehi would inform the IAEA on Monday about the Iranian decision to start the enrichment process at 20 per cent and begin the process itself on Tuesday at the Natanz enrichment plant in central Iran in presence of IAEA inspectors.

Salehi said that Iran had preferred to provide the necessary 20 per cent enriched uranium for the Tehran reactor from abroad, but as no understanding has yet been reached, the country was forced to do the enrichment by itself.

"We are still ready to make the exchange deal," he said, "and whenever an agreement is made and as soon as we receive the fuel from abroad, we will stop the enrichment process."