Iran: We Never Stopped 20% Enrichment

Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, declares that Tehran has never stopped 20 percent uranium enrichment.

Elad Benari,

Ali Akbar Salehi
Ali Akbar Salehi

Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said on Wednesday that Tehran has never stopped 20 percent uranium enrichment, denying earlier claims of a temporarily halt, reports AFP.

"Twenty percent uranium and nuclear plates are being produced inside the country and there has never been a halt in the production trend," Salehi was quoted as saying.

"Nuclear plates for Tehran reactor are produced inside the country, and the needed fuel assembly is allocated for the reactor each month," he added.

Last week, conservative MP Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, a spokesman for the foreign affairs committee, said Iran was temporarily halting enrichment to the 20 percent level.

Hosseini was quoted as having explained that Iran halted the enrichment because the Tehran fuel reactor had been supplied and there was no need for the 20-percent enriched uranium.

Committee chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi later denied that Iran had indeed stopped the enrichment. Naqavi Hosseini subsequently claimed he had been misquoted.

The enrichment program is at the core of Iran's dispute with world powers, who suspect it masks a drive for atomic weapons despite repeated denials by the Islamic republic.

Tehran insists that 20 percent enrichment is only used for the production of the fuel needed for the research and medical reactor of Tehran.

Enriching uranium to 20 percent purity is a few technical steps short of producing weapons-grade fissile material.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned this week that it is no longer relevant whether or not Iran enriches uranium to the 20% level.

The matter of 20% enrichment was the "red line" that Netanyahu insisted Iran must not pass, in his speech to the United Nations last year.

"Regarding Iran, we are not impressed by the discussion surrounding the issue of 20% enrichment," Netanyahu said. "The Iranians are intentionally focusing the discussion on this issue. It is without importance. Its importance is superfluous as a result of the improvements the Iranians have made in the past year which allow them to jump over the barrier of 20% enrichment and proceed directly from 3.5% enrichment to 90% within weeks, weeks at most."