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Iran says it has produced more enriched uranium

TEHRAN (AP) — Iran’s nuclear chief said Wednesday his country has
produced 17 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent, defying U.N.
demands to halt the controversial program.
The 20 percent level,
needed to produce fuel for a medical research reactor, is far below the
more than 90 percent required to build a nuclear weapon, but U.S.
officials have expressed concern Iran may be moving closer to the
ability to reach weapons-grade level.
The United States and its
allies accuse Iran of seeking to acquire atomic weapons. Tehran denies
the charge, saying its nuclear program is geared toward generating
electricity.
Iran has been producing the 20 percent enriched
material since February. The new figure of 17 kilograms — about 37
pounds — was announced by Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads
Iran’s nuclear program. That is up from 5 kilograms (11 pounds) Iran
announced in April that it had produced so far.
“Potentially, we
can produce 5 kilograms a month but we are not in a hurry over this,”
Mr. Salehi said, according to the semiofficial Iranian Students News
Agency.
The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution two weeks
ago strengthening sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear program
and calling on individual countries and blocs of nations to expand
their own sanctions regimes on Iranian individuals and organizations.
The
European Union followed with new sanctions, and last week the U.S.
Treasury Department said it would restrict economic contacts with some
three dozen additional individuals and companies claimed to be helping
Iran develop its nuclear and missile programs and evade international
penalties.
Iran is producing the further enriched material from
its stocks of low enriched uranium, which at 3.5 percent purity is the
level needed to fuel an electricity-generating reactor.
Iran says
it needs the 20 percent enriched uranium to produce fuel rods to power
a research reactor that produces isotopes for treating cancer and other
medical material. Salehi said Iran possesses the technology needed to
produce the fuel rods and the first should be ready sometime next
spring.
He said Iran plans to build four new reactors for atomic
medical research around the country, saying the reactors will be for
radioactive isotopes for medical needs of patients in Iran and abroad.
The
United Nations has demanded Iran halt all enrichment activities, but
Iran says it has a right to the program to fuel a peaceful nuclear
program.

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