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Iran Rejects Appeal to Stop Enriching Uranium

I’m Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Iran has rejected an appeal from the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency to suspend its uranium enrichment activities.

United Nations nuclear agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei met Thursday in Tehran with Iranian officials.

Mister ElBaradei said Iran repeated its promise to answer questions about issues involving its nuclear program. He also said he could not confirm Iran’s claim that it has enriched uranium to a level used in nuclear power centers. Mister ElBaradei said the only way to solve the issue is through negotiation. And he said there is enough time to negotiate a settlement.

Earlier this week, Iran announced that it now can enrich uranium to the level used in nuclear power centers. That would raise the possibility of making nuclear weapons.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that international pressure would not influence his nation. Mister Ahmadinejad said that from now on, the world would have to deal with Iran as a nuclear power.

Iranian officials say they plan to make fuel for a one thousand megawatt nuclear reactor. The officials say they plan to greatly increase the centrifuge devices needed for the process. They said they plan to expand the program to make three thousand centrifuges by the end of the year. They said they are currently using one hundred sixty-four centrifuges.

Iranian officials have said their nuclear activities are peaceful. But the United States and European nations believe the Iranians are operating a secret nuclear weapons program.

In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized Iran. Miz Rice said the nation could face increasing international punishment if it does not stop its nuclear work.

A high level State Department official, Nicholas Burns, spoke to a VOA reporter. Mister Burns said a large international coalition, including the United States, Russia, China and Europe, does not want Iran to develop nuclear weapons. He said these countries believe Iran has not told the truth about its secret nuclear weapons research program.

Russia says it will hold more talks next week on the situation. Representatives from the United States, the European Union and China are to attend the meeting Tuesday in Moscow. On Friday, a Chinese diplomat began a visit to Iran and Russia to discuss the issue.

The United Nations Security Council meets later this month to consider punishing Iran for its nuclear program. The Council had told Iran to stop all uranium enrichment activities before the end of this month. The Council will wait to hear from Mister ElBaradei before deciding on its next step. Mister ElBaradei reports to the Security Council on April twenty-eighth.

IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Jerilyn Watson. You can read and listen to our reports at I’m Steve Ember.