Tehran’s plans to enrich uranium stockpiles and build ten refinement sites in a year have plunged the country into a worsening diplomatic crisis.
The announcement has all but scuppered proposals by major powers to exchange Iran’s low-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel.
The US and France are now leading calls for fresh sanctions against the country.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, has accused the international community of being inflexible over fuel swap plans.
“We’ve been waiting for months to hear about our proposal,” he said.
“There was a common element in both proposals. The common element was that Iran was ready to send equivalent required material out and receive the fuel simultaneously.”
Five veto-wielding UN Security Council members – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – together with Germany, had proposed that Iran swap its low-grade uranium stockpiles for nuclear fuel to power Tehran’s medical reactor.
But the powers were unimpressed with the conditions Iran wanted them to accept before agreeing to the deal.
Some analysts believe it is only a matter of time before Iran is capable of producing weapons-grade uranium.
“Everybody knows that as soon as we can enrich the uranium at 20%, it takes a year to produce highly enriched uranium at 90%, which is the military quality,” said François Gere, head of the French Institute for Strategic Analysis.
But Iran maintains its motives are peaceful and that it only wants to be able to power its medical research reactor.
The West remains deeply sceptical. The US and France believe that only the threat of further sanctions will finally persuade Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions.
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