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US warns Iran on nuclear announcement

Tue Apr 11, 2006 6:00pm ET9
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By Carol Giacomo and Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States warned on Tuesday that Iran's latest declared nuclear advance could accelerate international pressures on Tehran but experts said much depends on whether the claims prove true and whether Russia and China see the same threat Washington does.

Iran's announcement that it had succeeded in enriching uranium to a level used in nuclear power plants added fresh tensions to its confrontation with the West, which accuses Tehran of developing nuclear weapons.

"If the regime continues to move in the direction that it is currently, then we will be talking about the way forward with the other members of the Security Council and Germany about how to address this going forward," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on board Air Force One en route to Missouri.

The State Department said it was unable to confirm Iran's claim and some experts said even if Iran's assertions are accurate, it would still be years before the Islamic state is able to produce a nuclear weapon.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack stressed that Iran's statements referred to an ability to produce uranium "at a fairly low enrichment level," not the highly enriched grade that is a "critical pathway" to developing nuclear weapons.

Iranian officials said they were producing enriched uranium at the 3.5 percent level from a cascade of 164 centrifuges, rapidly rotating cylinders used in uranium enrichment.

McCormack said Iran's announcement defied the U.N. Security Council which last month urged Tehran to halt enrichment by the end of April and return to talks on its nuclear ambitions.

The Security Council could impose tougher resolutions and sanctions but "at this point I think that we are going to see what the days ahead bring us in terms of Iranian reaction," said McCormack. He urged Iran to "choose the pathway of diplomacy as opposed to the pathway of defiance."   Continued...

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Criticism mounts over Iran

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Russia and the European Union joined the United States on Wednesday in condemning Iran's assertion that it had enriched uranium in defiance of a U.N. demand, but Moscow said force could not resolve the dispute.