Reuters: World powers warned Iran on Wednesday a third round of U.N. sanctions loomed if it did not halt its uranium enrichment work, which the West suspects could be used to build nuclear weapons. By Sophie Walker
LONDON (Reuters) – World powers warned Iran on Wednesday a third round of U.N. sanctions loomed if it did not halt its uranium enrichment work, which the West suspects could be used to build nuclear weapons.
Earlier, Iran underlined its determination to press on with the work when Ali Akbar Velayati, international affairs adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Tehran was capable of mass producing machines used for enriching uranium.
“One day Iran had problems to produce one centrifuge but right now we have obtained the technology for mass production of centrifuges,” Velayati told the Jomohouri Eslami newspaper.
It was believed to be the first time a senior aide of Khamenei, who has the final say on nuclear and other policies, has said it could make centrifuges on a large scale.
The sanctions warning followed a meeting in London of senior officials from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia — plus Germany.
A British Foreign Office statement said the political directors from the six major powers had concluded a negotiated solution was still preferable but that further action would taken if necessary to get Iran to comply.
“There was strong agreement on the way ahead, reflecting our shared concerns about Iran’s non-compliance with (the U.N. nuclear watchdog) and Security Council requirements and our common interest in a negotiated solution,” said the statement.
“All agreed that if Iran failed to meet international requirements the Security Council would need to take further action,” it said.
Iran says its nuclear program is only for electricity so it can export more of its oil and gas.
The United Nations has already imposed two sets of sanctions on the Islamic Republic since December over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, which can be used to fuel power stations or make bombs.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while suggesting his country in general favored negotiations, said Tehran would not retreat “one iota” from what it saw as its right to develop a civilian nuclear energy industry.
“The world should know that … Iran is among those countries who have the industrial (nuclear) fuel cycle,” he told a cheering crowd in the central province of Kerman.
Iran said last month it could make nuclear fuel on an industrial scale, a move that would take it closer to developing atomic weapons if it wanted to. Western experts expressed doubt about the announcement.
Tehran aims to have 3,000 centrifuges running at its main enrichment plant Natanz by the end of this month. That could be enough to refine uranium for one bomb within a year.
Centrifuges, tubular devices that are tricky to calibrate, spin at supersonic speed to refine fuel for power plants or, if it is enriched to high levels, nuclear explosives.
Diplomats and analysts say Iran has not shown the ability to run centrifuges for long periods without breakdown, the key to producing nuclear fuel, and say it is at least 3-8 years away from making enough enriched uranium for a bomb, if it wants one.
In London, the major powers reiterated strong support for continued dialogue between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran’s nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.
The major powers were “trying quite intently to open up a channel on the nuclear issue” through Solana, who was expected to meet Larijani again next week, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said on Wednesday.
They have repeatedly offered Iran economic, civil nuclear and security incentives if it suspends enrichment.
“All of us are a little bit puzzled that the Iranians have not taken a single offer of negotiations over the last 18 months,” Burns said.
“Iran is very much in isolation … Wouldn’t it want to consider that negotiation and diplomacy is the best way forward?”
(Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Tehran, Mark Heinrich in Vienna)