President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday told Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation to start work on producing nuclear fuel for a Tehran research reactor, further raising the stakes in a dispute with the West.
Ahmadinejad’s announcement is likely to irritate Western powers which want Iran to send most of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad in return for higher-refined fuel for the Tehran reactor producing medical isotopes.
Last year, Iran and six major powers discussed making such a swap as a way to ease international concern about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but they have failed so far to agree on how to implement the plan.
Iranian officials have repeatedly said the Islamic Republic can make fuel enriched to 20 per cent itself if there is no agreement on obtaining the material from abroad.
“We had told them (the West) to come and have a swap, although we could produce the 20 per cent enriched fuel ourselves,” Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech.
“We gave them two-to-three months’ time for such a deal. They started a new game and now I (ask) Dr Salehi to start work on the production of 20 per cent fuel using centrifuges,” he said, referring to atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi.
But he added at a ceremony marking Iran’s laser technology achievements: “The doors for interaction are still open.”
On Tuesday, the president had appeared for the first time to drop long-standing conditions Tehran had set for accepting the UN-brokered fuel proposal, saying Iran was ready to send its enriched uranium abroad in exchange for nuclear fuel.