Iran announces resumption of uranium enrichment

Friday, April 2, 2004

After a four-month suspension, Iran has acknowledged the resumption of uranium enrichment.

Iranian officials said the resumption of uranium enrichment was part of an effort to complete the nuclear fuel cycle. They said the International Atomic Energy Agency has been informed of the move.

Iranian Atomic Energy Organization director-general Gholam Reza Aghazadeh said the uranium enrichment would take place at a plant in Isfahan. The installation has been termed a uranium conversion facility that refines yellow cake for use in the production of enriched uranium, Middle East Newsline reported.

In October, Iran pledged to suspend uranium enrichment as part of an agreement with the IAEA. But Teheran stressed that the suspension would be temporary and uranium enrichment would be renewed in accordance with Iranian requirements.

"The experimental phase of the Isfahan processing installation has begun and by the end of this phase, in the next 20 days, experimental production at this facility will start," Aghazadeh, who is also Iran's vice president, told Iranian state television. "The uranium processing plant in Isfahan will produce all raw materials for the fuel cycle."

Officials said the Isfahan facility was not part of Iran's pledge to the IAEA for the suspension of uranium enrichment. They said that in 2000 Isfahan was reported to the IAEA as a nuclear site.

"The voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment in Iran was a move to build trust with the IAEA," Aghazadeh said, "and based on the order of the Supreme National Security Council secretariat and the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization to suspend activities in the field of building components and facility construction."

Aghazadeh said the National Security Council has also ordered the suspension of the construction of centrifuges. Iran has acknowledged that it sought to construct the advanced P-2 centrifuges.

IAEA director-general Mohamed El Baradei plans to visit Teheran on April 6 for talks on Iran's nuclear program. El Baradei has expressed concern that Iran was not honoring its accord with the agency, which on Sunday inspected the Natanz and Isfahan uranium enrichment facilities. The agency was scheduled to report on Iran's commitments to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty during a board of governors meeting scheduled for June.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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