Iranian President visits uranium plant
Updated: 2006-02-16 10:14
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the Natanz uranium enrichment plant
Wednesday, a day after Tehran confirmed it had resumed small-scale enrichment
there last week, the official news agency reported.
Ahmadinejad's visit to the plant in central Iran is widely seen as a gesture
of support and a morale boost for scientists involved in Iran's uranium
enrichment program. Activities at Natanz had been suspended since October 2003.
"What enemies fear is not production of an
atomic bomb, because in today's world atomic bombs are not efficient,"
Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the Islamic Republic News Agency. "The main
fear and concern of enemies is the self-reliance and knowledge of the Iranian
nation and the fact that Iranian youth are acquiring peaceful nuclear
Mahmoud Ahamadinejad, visits the Natanz uranium enrichment facilities some
200 miles (322 km) south of the Iranian capital Tehran Wednesday, Feb. 15,
2006. The unexpected visit came a day after Tehran confirmed it had
resumed small-scale uranium enrichment at the central Iran plant.
Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh and other top officials of the Atomic
Energy Organization of Iran accompanied the president on his visit, the Islamic
Republic News Agency said.
"The success of the Iranian nation in acquiring peaceful nuclear technology
will help the country to make progress in all fields," Ahmadinejad said.
Iran insists its nuclear program is designed solely to generate electricity.
Many Western nations, led by the United States and Israel, fear Tehran is trying
to build nuclear weapons and have sought to stop Iran from enriching uranium.
On Feb. 4, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Iran to the U.N.
Security Council and called on its government to suspend all enrichment-related
activities. Instead, Iran suspended certain aspects of its co-operation with the
On Wednesday, a Russian Embassy official confirmed that Russia and Iran would
hold talks in Moscow on Monday on Russia's offer to enrich uranium for Tehran.
Moscow has offered to host Iranian enrichment in Russia, where it would have
better oversight — a proposal meant to ease an international standoff over
Tehran's nuclear program.
Also, a spokesman for the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee
said Iran's foreign minister would meet the panel on Monday, a possible
indication that Tehran was prepared to return to a dialogue with Europe.
Iranian officials announced Tuesday that enrichment had resumed last week at
Natanz but that large-scale enrichment, as required for producing fuel for
nuclear reactors, had not resumed.
Aghazadeh, who is also the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran,
said resumption of uranium enrichment was limited to "a few centrifuges."
Centrifuges are used to enrich uranium. Uranium enriched to low level is used
to produce nuclear fuel for reactors and further enrichment makes it suitable
for use in nuclear weapons.
Iran had 164 centrifuges in Natanz sealed by the IAEA in 2003. The seals were
removed last month when Iran resumed nuclear research. Iranian officials have
indicated that Tehran may possess up to 2,000 centrifuges. For a large-scale
enrichment, Iran has to build up to 60,000 centrifuges.
Iran insists that as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,
which provides for peaceful nuclear development, it is entitled to enrich
uranium for nuclear reactors. It has threatened to withdraw from the treaty if
it was not allowed to exercise that right.