Iran Has Enough Uranium For Ten Atomic Bombs, U.S. Official Says
Iran has enough uranium hexafluoride (UF6) which, if enriched, would allow it to manufacture ten atomic bombs, the US permanent representative to the United Nations' nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday. Gregory Schulte adressed a meeting in Vienna of the 35-nation board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warning that "Iran is pursuing in a very determined way its [uranium] enrichment programme." Schulte added in his speech that it was time the UN Security Council intervened in the international crisis over Iran's nuclear plan, unless Tehran started cooperating with the IAEA.

"Iran has informed the Agency that it means to install the first 3,000 P-1 centrifuges [needed for erichment] in Natanz next autumn," said Schulte. According to the US official, the Islamic Republic "has a stock of 85 tons of UF6 which, if enriched, can produce enough material for approximately 10 nuclear weapons."

The time has come for the Security Council to take action, Schulte also said, and Iran must be warned of the "consequences" of its behaviour if it doesn't respect its obligations on the nuclear issue. The ongoing IAEA meeting is expected to pave the way to Security Council action against Iran. Sources say the Security Council could discuss Iran as early as next week. The council has the power to impose sanctions, although it is not clear that all key members would agree to do so.

"The United States believe the involvement of the Security Council should strengthen the role and investigations of the Agency," Schulte said. The official added that "Iran's actions will obviously influence the way in which the issue is discussed by the Security Council."

Meanwhile Iran's top negotiator in Vienna, Javad Vaodi, said on Wednesday that his country at the moment did not mean to use oil as a weapon in negotiations but would consider doing so in the future if forced by the West. The IAEA wants Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

Western powers believe Iran wants to develop nuclear arms, a claim denied by Tehran which says it wants to develop its nuclear sector only to produce energy for civilian purposes. Three years of negotiations between Iran and the EU have brought no significant result, and Iran resumed enrichment in January after a two-year moratorium.
Posted by: Steve 2006-03-08