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2 Jan, 2010 12:47

If West supplies no nuclear fuel, we’ll make our own – Iran

Iran claims it will produce its own nuclear fuel for a research reactor by the end of January if the West does not supply the material.

Iran has dismissed the deadline to meet a UN nuclear draft deal which expired at the end of 2009.

“We have given them an ultimatum. There is one month left and that is by the end of January,” Iran’s Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said on state television Saturday.

The warning is a show of defiance and a hardening in Iran’s stance over its controversial nuclear program, which the West fears is masking an effort to make nuclear weapons. Tehran insists the program is only for peaceful, electricity production purposes, and says it has no intention of making a bomb.

"We have always heard threats and deadlines from the West. I think that setting a deadline is a way to test the West's intentions, since Iran has already made a big concession by agreeing to have its uranium enriched to the required level by a third country," said Mohammad Ali Mohtadi at the Center for Scientific Research in Tehran. " This means that Iran has agreed to cooperate with the West; what remains to settle are minor issues and details."

Now Iran has also dismissed an end-of-2009 deadline by the Obama administration and the West to accept a UN-drafted deal to swap enriched uranium for nuclear fuel.

Under its terms, Tehran would transfer its low-grade nuclear uranium to Russia and France, where it will be further enriched and returned as nuclear fuel for civil use only. The deal is aimed at reducing Iran’s capability to produce nuclear weapons, which Tehran denies as its intention.

The initiative envisaged Iran sending 75 per cent of its low-enriched uranium for further processing and enrichment in Russia, to be then transported to France, where uranium rods for the Tehran reactor are meant for scientific purposes. Iran is believed to have 1.5 tons of low-enriched uranium.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) plan was hammered out in October 2009, with six countries taking part: Russia, the USA, China, Great Britain, France and Germany. At that time, Tehran’s answer to the initiative was that some changes and additions should be made to it. The country said it could partly send its uranium abroad, as per the plan, only in exchange for higher-enriched uranium.

The IAEA then rejected this approach. It insisted that all the earlier-accepted conditions, concerning the schedule and volumes of supplies, be met. Iran has yet to agree to those terms, so new sanctions are likely to be planned for Iran soon. UN consultations on the issue may start mid-January.