Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has very publicly inaugurated a new phase of his country’s nuclear programme – just days before a UN deadline to halt uranium enrichment. The new phase of the Arak project will produce heavy water. Although heavy water itself does not have a military use, it can be used for uranium enrichment. The International Atomic Energy Agency had asked Iran to reconsider the project.
But Ahmadinejad said that “no one can deprive a nation of its rights based on its capabilities”. He insisted once again that Iran’s only intention was to generate electricity, saying “Iran is not a threat to anybody, not even to the Zionist regime” – a reference to Israel, which Tehran does not recognise.
The United Nations Security Council has given Iran until the end of the month to halt uranium enrichment. However, with Russia and China likely to veto a sanctions vote, the only option for countries wishing to take such measures might be to take them on a voluntary basis without UN backing.