Iran Announces Nuclear Fuel Plant Open

Yesterday Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared the opening of a nuclear fuel plant in Isfahan to produce fuel for the heavy water reactor in Arak. In the presence of the country's leader, Iranian scientists demonstrated the first machine containing nuclear fuel particles. The plant has a capacity of 10 tons/year of nuclear fuel and 30 tons/year for further light water reactors. According to Iranian scientists, they are working on the final stage of nuclear fuel production. Iran also announced that it is testing a new type of gas centrifuge at the Natanz facility. The new centrifuges are designed for uranium enrichment.

At the opening ceremony, Ahmadinejad stated that Tehran is ready to engage in nuclear negotiations based on justice and mutual respect. He noted that if Western governments are in a position to conduct "straightforward and fair negotiations, the Iranian people will welcome it." He went on to say that "the Iranian nation has, from the beginning, wanted negotiations based on justice and complete respect for rights and regulations." He also voiced the opinion that the last round of negotiations failed due to certain countries' insistence on suspension of the Iranian nuclear programme.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the U.S. does not see the commissioning of the Isfahan nuclear fuel plant and the testing in Natanz of new gas centrifuges as a rebuff by Tehran of attempts by the global community as a whole or the new administration in Washington to negotiate on the Iranian nuclear issue. "We do not attribute any particular meaning to this particular statement regarding the range of issues that we are looking to address with the Iranians," she noted. Clinton also said that the U.S. does not have reliable information about whether Iranian specialists have installed in Natanz another set of 7,000 improved centrifuges processing uranium hexafluoride. "We don't know what to believe about the Iranian program. We've heard many different assessments and claims over a number of years," the Secretary of State said. According to Clinton, U.S. engagement in the P5+1 work is also conditioned by a desire to force Iran to honour its international obligations and to make the IAEA a source of reliable information. This particular case shows "a huge gap between what IAEA inspectors saw in Natanz 6-7 weeks ago and current Iranian statements," Clinton remarked, concluding "we believe that the Iranians would benefit from cooperation with the global community. We will continue to insist on that."

Yesterday a spokesman for Israeli Minister of Defence Ehud Barak made an official response to the statement of the nuclear fuel plant's commissioning in Iran: "We are closely watching the development of the Iranian nuclear programme and believe that commissioning a new nuclear facility in Isfahan reaffirms the importance of firm international control over the nuclear ambitions of the Tehran regime."

Earlier, the Israeli Government stated that the Prime Minister does not object to negotiations between the West and Iran on its nuclear programme, unless Iran starts using such negotiations to hide its true nuclear ambitions. This is the official Israeli attitude adopted towards the new open policy of U.S. President Barack Obama. At the same time, Israel expects that the global community will severely impede Iranian efforts to develop its own nuclear weapons.