AFP: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to unveil what he has described as “good news” on Iran’s nuclear programme on Monday amid international calls for a suspension of uranium enrichment. TEHRAN, April 7, 2007 (AFP) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to unveil what he has described as “good news” on Iran’s nuclear programme on Monday amid international calls for a suspension of uranium enrichment.
April 9 is Iran’s national nuclear technology day and marks the first anniversary of its enrichment of uranium to the level needed to produce fuel for civil reactors.
Ahmadinejad will visit Iran’s enrichment facility in the central city of Natanz to mark the anniversary.
“Ceremonies marking the national day of nuclear technology will be organised in the presence of President (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad in Natanz,” said a statement from Iran’s atomic energy organisation.
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly promised that he is preparing a major announcement on Iran’s nuclear programme and his presence at the enrichment plant for the anniversary has fuelled speculation that it will be the venue.
The semi-official Fars news agency speculated that the president would confirm the belated launch of a cascade of 3,000 centrifuges at the plant.
“In February they were supposed to announce the installation and launch of 3,000 centrifuges, but it did not happen so it is expected that the good news involves the installation and launch of the centrifuges,” the news agency said.
At low levels of 3.5 percent or so, uranium enrichment provides the fuel for nuclear reactors, but at highly extended levels of well over 90 percent it can also produce the fissile core of an atomic bomb, the source of Western concerns about Iran’s intentions.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, there are at least 1,000 centrifuges in Natanz at different stages of installation.
Only around a third of them have yet been fed with uranium hexafluoride gas feedstock.
Iran has vowed to gave 3,000 centrifuges up and running at the facility by May 2007 despite repeated ultimatums from the UN Security Council to suspend its efforts to master the nuclear fuel cycle.
The Security Council has already imposed two packages of sanctions against Iran over its failure to heed the ultimatums.
The second resolution tasked the European Union’s top diplomat Javier Solana with holding talks with Iran about the possibility of renewed negotiations.
But Iran insists it will only enter talks without preconditions and not, as the Security Council demands, following a prior suspension of uranium enrichment.
Chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani reiterated on Thursday that there could be no freeze on enrichment activities ahead of talks.
Washington has repeatedly refused to rule out military action if diplomacy fails to secure a change of heart from Tehran.
Iran has retaliated against the UN sanctions by withholding immediate notification of its plans to build or modify nuclear facilities, saying notice would come only six months before improved facilities are brought into service.