Iran to sound IAEA on higher uranium enrichment plan

TEHRAN: Iran was expected today to formally announce to the UN nuclear watchdog

its plans to enrich uranium to a higher level, but insisted it will stop the process if a UN-backed nuclear deal is clinched.

Iran’s atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi announced that Tehran would begin enriching uranium to 20 per cent from Tuesday and that the International Atomic Energy Agency would be informed of its decision before that.

Salehi’s announcement late Sunday came just hours after he was ordered by Iran’s hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to start enriching uranium to 20 per cent to provide nuclear fuel to the Tehran reactor.

“We will inform the IAEA in a letter on Monday of our intention to enrich uranium to 20 per cent,” Ali Akbar Salehi told Al-Alam television on Sunday. “The higher enrichment will begin at the Natanz plant from Tuesday,” he added. Iran’s main uranium enrichment facility is in the central city of Natanz where it has carried on the sensitive atomic work defiantly for years despite three rounds of UN sanctions. He, however, said Tehran would stop the higher enrichment programme if a long-negotiated deal with world powers is concluded.

The UN-drafted deal envisages shipping out Iran’s low-enriched

uranium of 3.5 per cent abroad to be converted into 20 per cent enriched uranium for Tehran’s research reactor, which makes medical isotopes. “Our proposal (to swap the LEU with the fuel) is valid but if we receive the fuel then we will stop the enrichment” of 20 per cent uranium, Salehi said.