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IAEA report says Iran has developed 20 percent enriched uranium

Iran had defied UN sanctions and produced nearly six kilogrammes of higher-enriched uranium as of early April, according to a UN report. Iran says it needs the uranium for a research reactor, but the West fears it is intended for a nuclear weapon.

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AFP - Iran had produced at least 5.7 kilogrammes (12.5 pounds) of higher-enriched uranium, which it says it is producing for a research reactor, as of early April, according to a restricted UN report seen by AFP on Monday.

"On April 7, 2010, Iran withdrew 5.7 kilogrammes of UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) from the first cascade" at its pilot fuel enrichment plant in Natanz, the International Atomic Energy Agency report said.

"According to Iran, this UF6 was enriched to 19.7 percent."

But a senior diplomat with knowledge of the IAEA's Iran investigation said that the actual amount was more.

"The 5.7 kilogrammes was in early April. But it has continued to produce it since then. It's more," the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The enriched uranium, which Iran says it needs for a research reactor that makes radioisotopes for medical purposes, but which the West fears is ultimately intended for a nuclear weapon, was being produced at an estimated rate of around 100 grammes per day, the diplomat added.

Iran, which has so far been enriching uranium to levels of no more than 5.0 percent in Natanz, started enriching to close to 20 percent purification in February, ostensibly to make fuel for a research reactor in Tehran.

The move, in defiance of UN sanctions, drew wide condemnation from western countries because it brings the Islamic republic closer to levels needed to make the fissile material for a nuclear bomb.

Tehran insists that its controversial nuclear activities are exclusively peaceful, but the West believes Iran is covertly seeking to make a bomb.

In an IAEA-brokered deal last October, the United States, Russia and France proposed that they take most of Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) and turn it into the fuel rods for the research reactor.

But Iran was refused to take up the offer and has drawn up a deal with Brazil and Turkey instead.

And it has riled the West by insisting on further enriching uranium to higher levels on its own, even though it is not believed to have the technology to produce the fuel rods for the reactor.

According to the IAEA report, Iran has amassed some 2,427 kilogrammes of LEU so far, double the amount it says it is ready to transfer to Turkey for further processing.
 

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