Ahmadinejab to world: "Attempt to shut down Iran's nuclear program would cause "everlasting hatred in the hearts of Iranians"
April 12, 2006
Iran ‘has joined club of nuclear countries'
It announces ability to enrich uranium, complicating efforts by West to shut down its program
From Wire Reports
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's hard-line leader said Tuesday his country "has joined the club of nuclear countries" by successfully enriching uranium for the first time.
And President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned the West that trying to force it to abandon its program would "cause an everlasting hatred in the hearts of Iranians."
The U.N. Security Council has demanded Tehran stop all enrichment by April 28 because of suspicions the program is designed to make nuclear weapons.
The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency was heading to Iran today for talks aimed at resolving the standoff. The timing of Iran's announcement suggested it wanted to present Mohamed ElBaradei with a fait accompli and argue that it cannot be expected to give up a program that shows progress.
Iran's announcement marks a small but significant advancement of its potential to build a nuclear bomb in the next five to 10 years, according to experts in nonproliferation.
The claims, which the experts regarded as credible, could dramatically complicate efforts by Europe and Russia to reach a diplomatic solution while lending a new sense of urgency to hawks in the U.S. and Israel who are pressing to keep military options open.
Having cleared a major, initial hurdle in the nuclear-enrichment cycle, Iran next must devise ways of lengthening production, duplicating machinery and dispersing facilities around the country to make it far more difficult for a military strike to wipe out the program, experts said. But they insisted Iran has many major challenges ahead, and that much negotiating time remains.
Ahmadinejad repeated his claim that Iran's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. He also criticized the world's nuclear powers as being stuck in "the mentality of 50 years ago," thinking "that they can change world political, cultural and economic equations in their own favor by stockpiling weapons of mass destruction."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the statements "continue to show that Iran is moving in the wrong direction."
The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said the breakthrough came Monday at the pilot enrichment plant in Natanz, in the desert south of Tehran.
"I am proud to announce that we have started enriching uranium to the 3.5 percent level," Gholamreza Aghazadeh said, specifying the low level used to generate electricity.
"This achievement has paved the way for Iran to start its industrial-scale production and, to enter this stage, we are trying to put in operation a complex of 3,000 centrifuges" by mid-March 2007.
Another senior Iranian official, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, offered still more details in an interview with the Kuwait News Agency.
"Iran has put into operation the first unit of 164 centrifuges, has injected (uranium) gas and has reached industrial production. We should expand the work of these machines to achieve a full industrial line. We need dozens of these units to achieve a uranium enrichment facility."
Enriching uranium is a pivotal step. Enriched to a low level of about 3.5 percent, uranium will fuel a power plant. If enrichment continues to much higher levels, it can provide the explosive power for atomic weapons.
But enrichment on any scale appeared likely to escalate the stakes in the showdown with the West, which began when Iran resumed pre-enrichment steps in a nuclear program it had agreed to freeze after emerging from the shadows more than two years ago.
The Washington Post, Knight Ridder Newspapers and The Associated Press contributed.