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Iran moves toward uranium enrichment

By Associated Press
Published October 7, 2004

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran said Wednesday it has processed several tons of raw "yellowcake" uranium to prepare it for enrichment - a key step in developing atomic weapons - in defiance of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.

Converting raw uranium into hexafluoride gas does not violate any agreements Iran has made regarding its nuclear program and was done with the full knowledge of the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, it draws Iran and the United States - which quickly voiced its disapproval - closer to a showdown before the U.N. Security Council.

The IAEA board of governors specifically demanded last month that Iran stop all enrichment-related activities, and cited the plans to convert raw uranium into hexa-fluoride gas as alarming. Iran has refused to back down, and its parliament is studying a bill that would require the government to proceed with the enrichment process over any objections.

Hossein Mousavian, Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA, would not specify how much hexafluoride gas had been produced, but he said that a few tons of raw uranium - also known as yellowcake - had been converted.

The conversion process yields nearly the same amount of gas, meaning a few tons would have been produced.

"We have used part of the raw uranium we had. A few tons of yellowcake has been converted," Mousavian told the AP.

"We are not in a hurry to do it," he added. "The amount we've produced is (for) an experimental process, not industrial production."

It is less than what experts estimate would be required to make a single bomb, which Iran says it has no intention of doing.

The White House quickly disapproved, with spokesman Scott McClellan again accusing Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and saying it must give up the quest.

[Last modified October 7, 2004, 00:30:24]

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