Iran Claims Uranium Enrichment Right

Iran Nuke: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and US President George W. Bush over flags of Iran and USA and nuclear symbol
AP / CBS
Iran is prepared to negotiate on the large-scale enrichment of uranium but will never abandon its right to enrich uranium, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a press conference Tuesday.

The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment of uranium and last week it asked the U.N. nuclear agency to report back in 30 days on whether Iran had complied with the demand.

Mottaki maintained Iran's line that it would not comply with the Security Council demand, saying the research-scale enrichment that Iran began in February was in exercise of its rights and will continue.

Iran has been conducting small-scale enrichment for what it says is research purposes, but it would require large-scale enrichment to fuel a nuclear reactor. Enrichment makes uranium suitable for reactor use but, taken to a high degree, it becomes suitable for a nuclear bomb.

The United States and France have accused Iran of seeking enrichment as a part of a secret program to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear ambitions are confined to the generation of electricity.

"The enrichment of uranium ... is Iran's right as defined as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," Mottaki said.

"One thing we can't give up and that is the right of the Iranian nation ... We can't hold a dialogue with any country about giving up our rights," Mottaki insisted.

He added that Iran was prepared to talk to the international community about large-scale enrichment.

"For industrial-scale production of nuclear fuel, which is the next stage (of enrichment), we are ready for negotiations," Mottaki said.

Iran's first nuclear reactor, built with Russian assistance at Bushehr in southwestern Iran, is due to come on stream later this year.

Mottaki said there were two options for Iran's nuclear program: cooperation or confrontation.

"Iran prefers the first option," he said.

The big three European powers — Britain, France and Germany — negotiated with Iran for two years endeavoring to persuade it to abandon enrichment. Iran gave up on the negotiations last August and began resuming parts of its nuclear program that it had suspended as a goodwill gesture.

When Iran resumed enrichment early this year, the Europeans decided to push for Security Council action on the issue.

The nuclear program is a source of national pride in Iran, and even government opponents have expressed support for the program.

Iran also announced Tuesday that it has tested a second new radar-avoiding missile, the latest weapon to be unveiled during war games in the Gulf that the military says are aimed at preparing the country's defenses against the United States.

The new surface-to-sea missile is equipped with remote-control and searching systems, state-run television reported. It said the new missile, called Kowsar after the name of a river in paradise, was a medium-range weapon that Iran had the capability to mass-produce.

It also asserted that the Kowsar's guidance system could not be scrambled, and that it had been designed to sink ships. The chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, watched the latest missile test, the state-run TV said.

On Friday, the country tested the Fajr-3, a missile that it said can avoid radars and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads. Since the war games began Friday, the country also has tested what it calls two new torpedoes.

The second torpedo, unveiled Monday, was tested in the Straits of Hormuz, the narrow entrance to the Gulf that is a vital corridor for oil supplies. That seemed designed to be a clear warning to the United States that Iran believes it has the capability to disable oil tankers moving through the Gulf, if it should so choose.

The Revolutionary Guards, the elite branch of Iran's military, have been holding their maneuvers — code-named the "Great Prophet" — since Friday, touting what they call domestically built technological advances in their armed forces.

But some experts say it appears some of the technology has come from other countries, most likely Russia or North Korea.

Others have questioned just how radar-evading the missiles are. Iran's radars are not as advanced as those of Israel, for example — meaning that perhaps the new weapons can avoid the radar that Iran has access to, but not more advanced types.

The United States said Monday — after the second torpedo test — that while Iran may have made "some strides" in its military, it is likely to be exaggerating its capabilities.

"We know that the Iranians are always trying to improve their weapons system by both foreign and indigenous measures," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said in Washington. "It's possible that they are increasing their capability and making strides in radar-absorbing materials and technology."

But "the Iranians have also been known to boast and exaggerate their statements about greater technical and tactical capabilities," he said.

It has not been possible to independently verify Iran's claims for the new armaments. But the country has made clear it aims to send a message of strength to the United States amid heightened tensions over Iran's nuclear program.

On Tuesday, state-run television also said the elite Revolutionary Guards had tested what it called a "super modern flying boat" capable of detecting radar. TV showed a brief clip of the boat's launch.

"Due to its advanced design, no radar at sea or in the air can detect it. It can lift out of the water," the television said. It said the boat was "all Iranian-made and can launch missiles with precise targeting while moving."