Iran defies UN as it announces 10 nuclear sites plan
IRAN has announced the building of 10 new uranium enrichment plants within protected mountain strongholds as part of its nuclear programme. Work will start on the first one in March.
The move is a response to sanctions imposed on Iran by the United Nations in an attempt to stop it producing enriched uranium, which can be used as fuel for nuclear power plants but also for weapons if produced at a high enough grade.
Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also ordered the government to offer only "minimum levels of co-operation" with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog.
Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's atomic chief and one of the country's 12 vice-presidents, said: "Finding the location for the construction of 10 more uranium enrichment plants in Iran is over now. The construction of one of these sites will start by the end of this (Iranian) year or the beginning of the next year (March). The new enrichment facilities will be built inside mountains."
The British government said the statement was a "cause for concern".
"The reports that we have seen certainly do not give us any comfort that Iran is moving in the right direction," a spokesperson said.
And a spokesperson for the French foreign ministry said: "This only worsens the international community's serious concerns about Iran's nuclear programme."
Iranian leaders are attempting to show they are not cowed either by the UN sanctions or the extensive supplementary sanctions approved in recent months by the US Congress and the European Union.
The latter have largely cut off Iranian banks from outside support, by threatening action against foreign banks that do business with them.
Yesterday, the Tehran regime also ordered the Iranian navy to retaliate against any countries attempting to search its ships or planes for materials that could be used for creating nuclear weapons under UN sanctions. The order suggested that the navy should respond by seizing cargo ships from other countries.
Mr Salehi's Atomic Energy Organisation is thought to be having difficulty securing supplies to maintain the country's first and only functioning enrichment plant, at Natanz, let alone complete its second, near the city of Qom.
The Natanz plant is capable of producing uranium enriched to 3.5pc purity -- known as low- enriched uranium -- and has started purifying stocks further to 20pc. It is relatively easy to further purify the uranium to 90pc, the level needed to build a nuclear weapon. (© Daily Telegraph, London)