Iran defies nuclear watchdog

Iran’s president said Tehran would not give in to foreign pressure aimed at stopping what he said was a peaceful nuclear energy program.

The United States says Iran’s nuclear program is a covert scheme aimed at building bombs.

A spokeswoman for the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the uranium processing was being closely monitored by the IAEA to ensure that nothing would be diverted for weapons purposes.

“The uranium conversion is being conducted under the supervision of the IAEA,” spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.

It was unclear how much processed uranium had been produced so far, though Iran’s chief delegate to the IAEA, Hossein Mousavian, indicated the amount was not large.

“It is an experimental process and we have not entered the industrial phase,” Mr Mousavian said in Tehran.

“A few tonnes of the 37 tonnes of yellowcake have been converted under the full supervision of the IAEA and completely within the framework of (IAEA) safeguards,” he said.

Iran’s uranium conversion plant at Isfahan intends to process a total of 37 tonnes of yellowcake, which experts say could be enriched into material for up to five atomic weapons.

The IAEA has installed monitoring cameras at Isfahan to oversee the production of uranium hexafluoride, the feed material for centrifuges used in enrichment.

Mr Mousavian said the oversight was intense, with the agency making certain that “each milligram of the used yellowcake (is) under the IAEA’s watch and supervision.”

The IAEA board of governors passed a resolution last month demanding Iran freeze all activities connected with uranium enrichment, including making feed material for centrifuges.

Tehran had originally promised France, Germany and Britain in October 2003 that it would suspend its entire enrichment program and all related activities.

While it has yet to enrich any uranium, Iran never entirely froze the program and recently resumed key parts of it.

If Tehran fails to heed the demands, the board said it would consider possible “further steps”, possibly sanctions, when it meets next month.

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