Iran’s Latest Gesture
More posturing from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iran-watchers were warned to expect a new announcement regarding its nuclear activities by President Ahmadinejad last weekend, but yesterday’s announcement proved to be nothing more than another gesture for diplomatic and domestic consumption.
The substance of the announcement in a speech by the president was that Iranian scientists and engineers had succeeded in loading fuel into the research reactor at Tehran, using uranium enriched to 20 percent with Iran’s own centrifuges.
This has very little to do with any possible weapons programme. The reactor, supplied by the US in the 1960s, is designed to produce medical isotopes for use in cancer treatments, and the uranium is used up in the process and cannot be re-purposed.
Iran also unveiled 3000 new centrifuges at Natanz, which it claims are three times more efficient than its previous equipment, which will allow it process uranium for use in the reactor more easily. However, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervises both the reactor and the centrifuges, and Iran had previously announced the enrichment of uranium to a similar level last month at its facility in Qom.
In a speech after the ceremony, President Ahmadinejad said that Iran would not give up its nuclear research and attacked ‘hegemonic powers’ for attempting to monopolize nuclear technology.
At the same time, Baroness Catherine Ashton, foreign policy chief of the EU, announced that she had received a letter from Iran’s chief negotiator on the nuclear issue, indicating that the regime was willing to re-enter talks.
A deal brokered between Iran, Turkey and Brazil to supply fuel for this reactor collapsed acrimoniously after American opposition two years ago, and Iran announced that it would produce the fuel itself. This gesture is most likely a signal to the West that while Iran may be willing to return to negotiations, it will not give up its right to nuclear technology under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), even in the face of increasingly stringent economic sanctions.