Wednesday, November 15, 2006
VIENNA, Nov. 14 -- New traces of plutonium and enriched uranium, potential material for atomic warheads, have been found at a nuclear waste facility in Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Tuesday, as Iran's president boasted that his country's nuclear fuel program would soon be completed.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at a news conference in Tehran, asserted that the world had no choice but to "live with a nuclear Iran," but conceded that his country was "still in the first stages" of its uranium enrichment program.
He also said Iran would talk to the United States if it "corrects its behavior," but the White House said there would be no discussions until Tehran took a more constructive role in the region.
Ahmadinejad did not define the scope of any talks with the United States, nor did he say that Iraq or the nuclear dispute would be on the agenda of such discussions.
So far, Iran has been able to activate only two experimental enrichment plants that U.N. officials say have broken down frequently and have produced only small amounts of material suitable for nuclear fuel.
But Iran has progressed enough since resuming enrichment activities in February to provoke a U.N. Security Council demand that it freeze its program. Iran has refused, saying it intends to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment.
The IAEA board in February reported Iran to the Security Council, suggesting it had breached the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and might be trying to make nuclear weapons.
Tuesday's IAEA report, prepared for next week's meeting of the agency's 35-nation board, also faulted Iran for lack of cooperation.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton, said Ahmadinejad's comments and the IAEA's latest discoveries "both demonstrate the urgency for the Security Council to act on Iran." He said sanctions were "obviously the only means to get Iran's attention."
A senior U.N. official familiar with the report cautioned against reading too much into the findings of traces of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, saying that Iran had explained both and that they could plausibly be classified as byproducts of peaceful nuclear activities.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the report publicly, said that although the uranium was enriched to a higher level than needed to generate power, it was below weapons grade.