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. Iran to launch production of industrial nuclear fuel
TEHRAN, Jan 3 (AFP) Jan 03, 2007
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday vowed Iran will step up its atomic programme despite UN sanctions, predicting Tehran would soon "push the button" to produce nuclear fuel for industrial uses.

"Iran has the fuel cycle and very soon we will push the button on nuclear fuel production for industrial uses," said Ahmadinejad in a speech in Ghotvand, in western Khuzestan province, according to the IRNA news agency.

"The Iranian people have taken their decision and will in no way pay attention to empty cries of the materialists and the bullying of the decadent powers."

Iran has already announced it has enriched uranium to levels of around five percent. Producing nuclear fuel that could theoretically be used in a power station would be another important step in mastering the nuclear fuel cycle.

Ahmadinejad's latest comments come in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution at the end of last year which imposed sanctions against Tehran for its failure to suspend uranium enrichment.

Western powers want Iran to suspend enrichment, a process that they fear could be used to make nuclear weapons. Iran insists its atomic programme is entirely peaceful and it has every right to the full nuclear fuel cycle.

Iranian officials have already predicted Iran would be able to make a major announcement on its nuclear programme during the 28th anniversary celebrations of the Islamic revolution in February.

"The Iranian people will not retreat one iota from their rights and the revolutionary celebration will be a celebration that proves Iran's nuclear rights," Ahmadinejad said.

"The Iranian people are insisting on their position and want nothing more than their rights. The bullying powers should know that whatever fuss they make they have to surrender to the Iranian people's will."

He did not go into details on the scale of the fuel production, but producing nuclear fuel for an atomic power station would involve the continuous running of centrifuges to produce enriched uranium of high quality and quantity.

Iran has also said it wants to install 3,000 uranium enriching centrifuges at its enrichment plant in Natanz, central Iran, by March but it is unclear which stage these plans have reached.

In October, Iran only had two cascades of 164 centrifuges in Natanz declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) so the plan to install 3,000 centrifuges would take its enrichment to a new level.

Russia is building Iran's first nuclear power station in the southern city of Bushehr, a much delayed project which is due to be opened in September 2007. Moscow plans on delivering fuel for the plant in March.

However, Iran has also insisted it has every right to produce its own nuclear fuel on Iranian soil in defiance of international calls for the work to be carried outside the Islamic republic.

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