DUBAI Oct 24 Iran has stopped enriching uranium
to 20 percent, one of the key demands of world powers in talks
over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme, a senior Iranian
parliamentarian was quoted as saying.
There was no immediate comment from the U.N. nuclear agency
in Vienna which regularly inspects Iranian nuclear sites and
would likely be aware of any production halt. One diplomat in
Vienna also said he was not aware of any halt to production.
Any such move would come as a major surprise, as Western
experts believe Iran would want to use its higher-grade
enrichment as a bargaining chip to win relief from crippling
sanctions. Iranian MPs have in the past made statements about
Iran's nuclear programme that were later denied by the
Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, a senior member of Iran's
parliamentary national security commission, also said Tehran had
only stopped enriching uranium to levels above the 5 percent
needed for civilian power stations because it already had all
the 20-percent enriched fuel it needs for a medical research
reactor in Tehran.
"Enrichment over five percent depends on the needs of the
country; Iran's nuclear industry requires 20-percent enrichment
for providing the fuel for its Tehran reactor, but this site has
its required fuel at the moment and there is no need for further
production," the parliament's website quoted Hosseini as saying
late on Tuesday.
"Tehran will decide whether to have over 5-percent
enrichment or not itself, but the issue of suspension or halt of
enrichment activities is meaningless because no production is
taking place at the moment," he said.
Western officials have said they need Iran to stop enriching
uranium to 20 percent, increase the transparency of its nuclear
programme, reduce its uranium stockpiles and take other steps to
assure the world it does not want nuclear weapons.
While members of parliament's national security commission
are likely to be briefed on the nuclear programme, they are not
directly involved in policy making. The big decisions are made
by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran and six world powers - the five permanent members of
the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany - emerged from a fresh
round of talks in Geneva last week over Tehran's nuclear
activities saying they had been positive and constructive.
The talks were the first since relative moderate President
Hassan Rouhani came to office in August promising to try to
resolve the nuclear dispute and win an easing of stringent
international sanctions that have hurt Iran's economy.
Follow-up talks will be held in Geneva on Nov. 7-8.
Tehran denies allegations by Western powers that it is
seeking the capability to produce nuclear arms.
After enriching uranium to levels of 20 percent, it is a
relative short technical step to increase that to the 90 percent
needed for making a nuclear warhead.