Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2007
President: Nuke fuel production increases
The Iranians produced no evidence to support their claim.
WASHINGTON Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday that his country had begun producing nuclear fuel on an industrial scale, an accomplishment that, if verified, would significantly advance Iran's nuclear program.
But U.S. and British officials, along with international nuclear experts, cast doubt on the announcement, noting that the Iranians did not offer evidence to support the assertion and suggesting privately that the remarks were tailored toward generating national pride in a program that the U.N. Security Council has ordered Iran to suspend.
"With great pride I announce, as of today, our dear country Iran is among the countries of the world that produces an industrial level of nuclear fuel," Ahmadinejad said in a nationally televised speech from the town of Natanz, where Iran's enrichment facility is located.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, seemed to confirm separately to reporters that scientists had begun enriching uranium through a cascade of 3,000 centrifuges. Larijani did not elaborate and Iranian officials offered no photographs or video showing a new cascade at work. In the past, they have taken journalists and foreign diplomats on tours to witness advancements in the program, which Iran says is part of an effort to develop nuclear energy, not weapons.
U.N. inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency reported in March that Iran was operating two smaller test cascades of 164 centrifuges each and trying to build more.