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Iran to stop enrichment if given nuclear fuel

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  • Iran to stop enrichment if given nuclear fuel

    Iran to stop enrichment if given nuclear fuel

    The head of Iran's atomic agency said the Islamic Republic will not enrich uranium to a higher level if the West provides the fuel it needs for a research reactor in Tehran.

    Iran is set to start enriching its stockpile of uranium to 20 percent on Tuesday, in a step sure to antagonize Western nations that fear the enrichment work could eventually yield material for a nuclear weapon.
    Ali Akbar Salehi, a vice president as well as the head of the country's nuclear program, said the further enrichment would be unnecessary if the West found a way to provide Iran with the needed fuel.

    "Whenever they provide the fuel, we will halt production of 20 percent," he told state TV late Monday.

    Iran has so far enriched uranium to a level of 3.5 percent, which is suitable for use in fueling nuclear power plants. The process is of concern to the West, however, because at higher levels around 90 percent the material can be used to make weapons.

    The West fears that Iran's enrichment program is ultimately geared toward military purposes a charge Iran denies.

    On Tuesday, the spokesman of Iran's Foreign Ministry, Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters the higher enrichment will be done with the cooperation and supervision of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, adding that "if other countries or the agency could provide the fuel, our attitude can be different as well."

    Mehmanparast said any plan by the West to impose new Security Council resolutions would not be helpful.

    "If they attempt another resolution, they are making a mistake. It is not helpful in resolving the nuclear dispute between Iran and the West," he said. "They are completely wrong if they think our people will back down even a single step."
    Salehi said Iran would begin 20 percent enrichment on Tuesday by injecting gas into a cascade of centrifuge machines. Salehi said Iran needs some 1.5 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium a month for the Tehran research reactor, which produces medical isotopes.

    Salehi said 164 centrifuge machines were ready in a laboratory in Iran's main enrichment facility in the city of Natanz to produce 3 to 5 kilograms of higher enriched uranium per month.

    Salehi said inspectors from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency are expected to be present when Iran begins the higher enrichment.

    "The agency continues to have inspectors in Iran conducting normal safeguard operations," IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said Tuesday when asked if they would be present.