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. Iran ready to begin uranium enrichment within a few months -- official
VIENNA (AFP) Sep 13, 2004
Iran is ready to resume enriching uranium within a few months although no decision has been reached, a senior Iranian official told AFP Monday, in the clearest sign yet that Iran will end a year-old enrichment suspension that was to still worries about its nuclear ambitions.

"Iran should be able to start enrichment activities within a few months but high-level decision makers still have not yet decided about the timing," Hossein Mousavian, head of the Islamic republic's delegation to a meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog, said.

Mousavian said that Iran has reached self-sufficiency in centrifuge technology, the key to enriching uranium which can be fuel for civilian reactors but also the explosive core for atomic bombs.

Centrifuges are used to spin a uranium gas in order to refine highly enriched uraniums.

"Yes we are self-sufficient in centrifuges," Mousavian said.

Iran had last October suspended the enrichment of uranium as a confidence-building measure while under investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on US charges that Tehran is secretly making nuclear weapons.

Mousavian said Iran's year-long suspension of uranium enrichment, coupled with its signing an additional protocol to allow wider IAEA inspections and giving IAEA inspectors "full access" to Iranian facilities, was "enough for confidence-building."

"This can not continue for a very long time," he said about the suspension, adding that this was especially true since Iran is allowed to enrich uranium under the terms of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"We believe we have done enough," he said.

He said Iran was disappointed that Britain, France and Germany, with whom it signed the October agreement for suspension and increased Iranian cooperation with the IAEA, had not lived up to their promises to have the IAEA's investigation of Iran wrapped up by last June and to provide transfers of peaceful nuclear technology in exchange for Iran's cooperation.

But Mousavian said Iran was now negotiating with the European Union on "a wide-range of issues related to security, peace and stability in the whole region of the Persian Gulf, Caucasus, Central Asia and Middle East" and that progress in these talks "would have an effect on the timing of starting enrichment."

Iran seeks the elimination of weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East as well as trade and technology transfers, Mousavian said.

In Jerusalem Monday, the head of Israeli military intelligence, General Aharon Zeevi, said the next six months would be crucial for Iran to position itself as a would-be nuclear power.

"The next six months will determine if Iran will achieve in the spring of 2005 a non-conventional capability in the sphere of nuclear research and development," he said in remarks broadcast by public radio.

"In other words, it will no longer require external assistance to acquire an unconventional capability.

"This does not mean that it will have a bomb in 2005. It means that it will have all the means at its disposal to build a bomb."

Asked about this, Mousavian said: "Why wait until 2005", saying Iran had this capability now.

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