Iran steps up nuclear sabre-rattling

President signs new law as officials announce big nuclear scaling up.

A guard outside the controversial Bushehr nuclear plant.
A guard outside the controversial Bushehr nuclear plant.

 Iran’s president on Monday signed a bill to continue uranium enrichment, and limit cooperation with the UN’s nuclear watchdog, as officials announce the scaling up of the country’s nuclear power capacity.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad signed the law on Safeguarding the Islamic Republic of Iran's Peaceful Nuclear Achievements, which calls for continued enrichment of uranium to 20 percent level, Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

Under the law, the government is “obliged to continue its efforts to produce fuel for the Tehran research reactor as well as continue the 20 percent enrichment (of uranium)... and to produce the fuel plates required for the reactor."

At the same time, it allows for the cooperation “with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) only under the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty's (NPT) general regulations."

It prohibits any cooperation beyond the NPT requirements, according to the English language Press TV website.

Prior to the signing of the law, top Iranian officials announced an expansion of the enrichment programme, and plans for the construction of 20 nuclear power plants.

On Sunday, Iran's atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi was cited on state television's website late Sunday as saying the search for locations for 10 new enrichment facilities has ended and "the construction of one of these facilities will begin by the end of the (current Iranian) year (to March 2011) or the start of next year,” reports the AFP newswire.

Iran is already enriching uranium at its main plant in the central city of Natanz and is building a second enrichment facility inside a mountain at Fordo, southwest of Tehran.

Salehi, who is also one of 12 vice presidents of Iran, did not specify where the plant would be built.

He has previously said that any new uranium plants the Islamic republic builds would be located at sites which cannot be targeted by air strikes.

On Monday, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament’s Commission on National Security and Foreign Policy told IRNA that the fuel produced at Natanz will be used to supply 20 nuclear power plants that are currently under construction.

"Russia has built Bushehr power plant and has undertaken to supply fuel for the plant. Currently, construction of 20 power plants are underway and the fuel being produced at Natanz nuclear site, will be used to fuel the 20 plants being built by Iran," said the Majlis MP.

His comments came in response to U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement that Iran does not need to enrich uranium, as Russia is already supplying the fuel for the Bushehr power plant, which will become operational soon.

According to Boroujerdi, Iran is in the process of constructing 20 power plants that will generate 20,000 megawatts electricity within 20 years.

"According to Non-Proliferation Treaty, enrichment of uranium is among our legitimate rights and we are producing fuel for 20 nuclear power plants under construction with capacity of 1,000 megawatts each. We have no trust in the western suppliers, because Germany, France and the US have poor record in honoring their commitments to this end," he said.

While Tehran says the enrichment programme is of civilian nature, and will be used to produce medical isotopes, Western powers fear the regime is looking to build a nuclear arsenal.

The United Nations, the United States, the European Union, Australia and Canada have imposed sanctions on Iran for pursuing the enrichment programme.


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