Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Iran to ask for Nuclear Fuel at Talks Next Week

While the world sits and watches, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will represent his new hard line cabinet, and thumb his nose at the world by asking for nuclear fuel at a UN meeting next week. Will anyone stop this man? Israel?

Iran to ask for nuclear fuel at talks next week

Iran's president says his country will ask the six world powers at nuclear talks next week for imports of highly enriched uranium — material that the U.S. fears Tehran wants to use to arm nuclear warheads.

Iran vehemently denies having nuclear weapons aspirations and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told The Associated Press on Tuesday that his country was seeking to buy uranium that is highly enriched — or near that level — to fuel a small research reactor.

He also made clear that Iran is seeking uranium that is enriched only to 20 percent — the threshold for the high-enrichment level but substantially below then 90 percent- plus grade needed for nuclear warheads.

"We are interested in purchasing it, and we'd like to offer that as an issue to expand discussions on the table for the next meeting," he told the AP on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

That request could put the U.S. and its five negotiating partners in a bind at the Oct. 1 talks in Geneva. Until now, Iran has produced only low-enriched uranium, but it could use refusal of its request as a pretext to start producing high-enriched material.

Ahead of the negotiations, the foreign ministers of the six nations — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany — were meeting Wednesday on the sidelines of the General Assembly to discuss how to get Iran to stop uranium enrichment. Russian news agencies cited an official in the Russian delegation as saying Moscow does not rule out new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

U.N. sanctions on Iran are meant to prohibit exports of sensitive nuclear material and technology. The international community is unlikely to give Iran enriched uranium closer to weapons-grade level at a time when it wants Tehran to stop enrichment.

In the enrichment process, uranium oxide is processed into uranium hexafluoride, which then is spun to varying degrees of enrichment, with low-enriched uranium used for nuclear fuel and upper-end high-enriched uranium used for nuclear weapons.

Security Council refusal to waive the sanctions could give Tehran a plausible reason to turn to its own facilities and produce high-enriched uranium.

Since Iran's program was discovered seven years ago, it has put thousands of centrifuges online to churn out enriched uranium. But the International Atomic Energy Agency says the more than a ton of enriched material it has amassed is all below the 5 percent level and well below the 20 percent highly enriched mark.

Still Iran's accumulation of well over 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of low-enriched uranium gives it more than enough material to produce enough weapons-grade uranium through further enrichment for one nuclear weapon.

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