TEHRAN, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Iran's new move to enrich uranium to a higher 20-percent level has aroused the concern of Western countries, with the U.S. threatening to impose "a significant regime of sanctions" with other major countries against the country.
An Iranian nuclear negotiator originally accepted a draft plan proposed by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency -- the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) -- in October, agreeing to ship the country's low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for the 20-percent-pure fuel rods for a Tehran reactor producing medical isotopes to treat cancer patients.
However, among the wide disputes and strong opposition in the Iranian parliament, Iran later balked and then rejected the arrangement, announcing on Sunday that it would produce its own higher-enriched uranium instead.
Iran says more than 850,000 people need the isotopes and radiography materials produced by the Tehran reactor for their illnesses.
Analysts believe President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the uranium enrichment activities on the eve of the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, to coordinate the stances of various sides and to protect the internal solidarity of the regime.
Domestic media also think the decision would give more initiative to the Iranian government during its nuclear negotiations with the international community, and help it gain more bargaining chips against Western countries.
Western powers acted strongly against Iran's new move. U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Iran remains on the path of nuclear weapons, despite its denial, and the international community is moving "fairly quickly" toward imposing broader sanctions on Iran.
Obama said Iran's refusal to accept an U.N.-brokered nuclear fuel swap deal suggested that Iran is still trying to build nuclear weapons, despite the country's insistence that the nuclear enrichment is purely for civilian use.
Obama said the door is still open for Iran to come back to the negotiating table, but the U.S. is now mainly focused on sanctions.
"What we are going to be working on over the next several weeks is developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to them how isolated they are from the international community as a whole," Obama said.
He also said the U.N. penalties are only one part of the international sanctions on Iran, hinting more economic sanctions could be applied by the European Union and individual countries over the next several months.
The British Foreign Ministry said Iran doesn't possess the technology to turn the higher-grade uranium into the fuel rods needed for the Tehran reactor.
Germany also raised the sanctions threat, while Britain said Iran's new plans would breach U.N. resolutions.
France also said Iran's action left no choice but to push harder for a fourth set of U.N. Security Council sanctions to punish Iran's nuclear defiance.
Even Russia, which is friendly with Iran and has opposed new sanctions, has expressed disappointment on Tehran's move, saying the enrichment work has raised new suspicions.
"Iran says it doesn't want to have nuclear weapons. But its actions, including its decision to enrich uranium to 20 percent, have raised doubts among other nations, and these doubts are quite well-founded," said Nikolai Patrushev, chief of Russia's Security Council.
Although a nuclear bomb requires about 90 percent purity of uranium, getting to 20 percent is a big step as low-level enrichment is the most time-consuming and difficult stage of the process, accoording to experts.
Sanctions against Iran necessary in certain circumstances: deputy FM
MOSCOW, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Russia believes sanctions against Iran are necessary under certain circumstances, a deputy foreign minister said in an interview published Wednesday.
"We do not think sanctions will work, but we understand that it is impossible to get by without them in certain circumstances," Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the business daily Kommersant.Full story
Iranian FM spokesman: U.S. proposal to shut down Tehran reactor "not logical"
TEHRAN, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said Wednesday that the U.S. proposal to allow Tehran to obtain medical isotopes in exchange for shutting down its research reactor is "not logical," the official IRNA news agency reported.
"Due to the dire need of the patients (in Iran) for the medicine, the proposal is not logical," Mehman-Parast was quoted as saying.Full story
Obama: U.S. developing sanctions against Iran
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday his administration will develop "a significant regime of sanctions," over the next several weeks targeting Iran.
Obama said Iran has refused to accept a UN-backed uranium swap deal, which he claimed was "the most obvious attempt" of the international community to engage with Tehran, accusing Iran of pursuing "a course that would lead to weaponization." Full story
Sarkozy supports U.S.-proposed stronger sanctions against Iran on nuclear issue
PARIS, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed on U.S. proposal of stronger sanctions against Iran on its nuclear enrichment program, the president's office announced Monday night.
Sarkozy agreed with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates that "the time has come for the adoption of stronger sanctions, in the hope that dialogue could be resumed," the Elysee Palace said after the two held a near-one-hour talk. Full story
Gates gets European support on Iran sanction
PARIS, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- After the last stop in Paris, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrapped up his European tour on Tuesday with widespread support from European alliance on sanctions against Iran, in the hope that concrete punishment can stop Iran from moving closer to military nuclear programs.
During Gates' meeting with his French counterpart Herve Morin on Monday, the two nations' common position on Iran nuclear issue was a highlighted part besides other major topics such as France's sale of advanced warship Mistral to Russia, Afghan security issue, and competition and cooperation between European and U.S. plane makers. Full story
Iran declares start of 20% uranium enrichment
TEHRAN, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) Ali Akbar Salehi said on Tuesday that Iran began to produce 20 percent enriched uranium at the Natanz facility, the official IRNA news agency reported.
"From today, we will start the 20 percent (uranium) enrichment in a separate cascade in Natanz (nuclear enrichment facility)," Salehi was quoted as saying by the IRNA. Full story
Iran "definitely" capable of enriching uranium to 20%
TEHRAN, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- Head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi said Tuesday that Tehran is definitely capable of enriching uranium to 20 percent, local English-language Press TV reported.
Salehi made the remarks in response to French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who described Iran's plan as a political bluff and said Iran does not have the ability to enrich uranium to 20 percent and accused Tehran of "blackmail," the report said. Full story
China calls for more diplomacy after Iran starts 20% uranium enrichment
BEIJING, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- China on Tuesday called for increased diplomatic efforts and an early agreement for an internationally-backed nuclear fuel proposal for Tehran after Iran started its higher-grade uranium enrichment program.
Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about its plan to start its enrichment activities to the purity of 20 percent on Tuesday, provoking fresh warnings by Western countries of new sanctions. Full story
Russia says Iranian decision casts doubt on nuclear program
MOSCOW, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- Iran's decision to enrich uranium to higher levels raises doubts about the purpose of its nuclear program, the Russian security council secretary said on Tuesday.
"We do not want Iran to have nuclear weapons. Iran insists that holding nuclear arms is not its goal and that its nuclear program is civilian," Nikolai Patrushev said in televised remarks. Full story
Germany threatens new sanctions against Iran
BERLIN, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Tuesday threatened new sanctions against Iran, saying that Tehran has the right to make peaceful use of nuclear power, but must refrain from any nuclear armament.
"If Iran continues to refuse talks, then talks at the United Nations is inevitable, and we'll have to talk about new measures," said Westerwelle. Full story
Israeli PM urges "crippling" sanctions on Iran
JERUSALEM, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday called for "crippling" sanctions on Iran as the Islamic Republic began to produce 20 percent enriched uranium earlier in the day.
As a response to the latest development of the Iran issue, Israel Prime Minister Office released a statement, saying "the international community must defend world peace and enforce sanctions on Iran. The hour demands crippling sanctions on Iran, now." Full story
Turkish FM plans to visit Iran for nuclear talks
ANKARA, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is expected to pay a visit to Iran for nuclear talks, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported on Tuesday.
Davutoglu said his office is working to arrange for him to visit Tehran later Tuesday or after a two-day trip to Kazakhstan on Feb. 10-12. Full story
Brazilian FM defends dialogue with Iran
BRASILIA, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said Tuesday Brazil would maintain negotiations with Iran on uranium enrichment and oppose any sanctions against Iran.
Amorim said Brazil was against the production of nuclear weapons, but Iran had the right to carry out a peaceful nuclear program. Full story