Iran said Thursday that it would be able to continue its uranium enrichment even in the event of an attack on its nuclear facilities. Speaking in Moscow, Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said that Tehran realized that it was “faced with a very serious threat and so we have had to take measures to protect our facilities. We have provided for another facility in Fardo near Qom.” That site, he said, should be considered a “a reserve facility, so that if a site is attacked, we can continue the enrichment process.”
The comment came as the British Guardian newspaper on Thursday published a cable released by Wikileaks from 2009, which quotes a U.S. official as saying that Iran had by that time achieved the “technical ability” to produce highly enriched uranium, a necessary step in producing nuclear weapons. The cable quotes a U.S. diplomatic official as saying that “Iran had now demonstrated centrifuge operations such that it had the technical ability to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) if it so chose.”
Talks are set to begin Friday between Iran, the U.S., and its allies, on renewing a deal that would enable Iran to achieve nuclear power, but prevent Tehran from continuing its enrichment program. The last round of talks between the U.S. and the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with Germany made little progress, officials said.
A deal that had been worked out in October 2009 to send some 1,200 kilos of Iranian uranium to Russia and France to be manufactured into fuel rods fell apart over disputes in the Iranian government. The deal would have provided Iran with enriched uranium suitable for energy production, while preventing Tehran from having enough low-enriched uranium needed to develop an atomic bomb. Efforts to revive that deal or a similar one last May fell apart as well, and U.S. officials said Thursday night that they were “pessimistic” about the prospects of hammering out a deal in the new round of talks.