Defiant Iran vows to continue enrichment, dismisses sanctions as insignificant

Ahmadinejad says international pressure will not slow down Tehran’s nuclear program

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (photo credit: AP/Bebeto Matthews/File)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (photo credit: AP/Bebeto Matthews/File)

Iranian officials said Tuesday that uranium enrichment would continue nearly unabated, despite Western sanctions aiming to quash their nuclear program.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the sanctions could cause a short delay in Tehran’s nuclear program but would not slow it down substantially.

“The West is not happy with Iran’s progress” in various technological fields, including uranium enrichment (a possible pathway to nuclear arms), Iranian state TV quoted him saying.

At the same time, Iran’s atomic energy chief asserted that Tehran would continue to enrich uranium to 20 percent purity “as long and as much as” it deems necessary and despite international pressure, semi-official Iranian Press TV reported.

“The production of 20 percent enriched uranium for use in Tehran’s reactor is the Iranian nation’s right and it will defend this right,” Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Fereydoun Abbasi said.

“Twenty percent enrichment is not an issue for the Westerners to agree to or oppose or even to seek a stance on,” he added.

The remarks come days after Tehran again prevented visiting UN nuclear agency inspectors from visiting the Parchin military base near the Iranian capital. The International Atomic Energy Agency has linked the site to suspected secret nuclear weapons research. Iran denies that, insisting Parchin is only a conventional military facility.

The international community has repeatedly condemned Iran’s unsanctioned nuclear program, which is widely suspected to be intended for military purposes.

Last month, the IAEA reported that it “has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”

Iran, however, denies those charges and claims the nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Recent nuclear talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany — the P5+1 — have yielded no tangible results.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday, however, that Iran would “take measures which can lead to easing the IAEA concerns and you will witness its details, if we reach a comprehensive agreement which recognizes our rights” to a nuclear program, semi-official Iranian Fars news agency reported.

“We are seeking to reach all-out agreements in our talks with the IAEA and our country’s nuclear rights should be completely recognized in such an agreement and we should be able to utilize the know-how which includes (access to) the complete nuclear fuel cycle and enrichment for the development of the country and in line with peaceful purposes,” he said.

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