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UN Chief Urges Iran to Stop Uranium Enrichment

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging Iran to heed Security Council demands that it stop enriching uranium. VOA correspondent Peter Heinlein reports from U.N. headquarters in New York.

Mr. Ban reacted strongly to news that Iran has dramatically expanded its uranium enrichment program. He reminded Iranian leaders of their obligation to comply with two Security Council resolutions penalizing them for refusing previous demands to stop enrichment.

The statement was read by U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq.

"I sincerely hope that even at this time, when the Iranian government is undergoing Security Council sanctions, that they should engage in dialogue with the intention of communicating," he said. "It's very important for any member country to fully comply with the Security Council resolution. I urge the Iranian government to do so."

Mr. Ban's comment came shortly after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that his country had mastered the technique of mass-producing nuclear fuel.

Iran has repeatedly denied any intention to produce atomic weapons, but the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency says it can not be certain Iran's intentions are peaceful.

President Ahmadinejad's announcement is seen as a sign of continuing defiance of the international community. Iran ignored two previous Security Council deadlines for halting enrichment, prompting the Council to impose gradually increasing sanctions. Those penalties would likely be ratcheted up again if Tehran misses another deadline set for late May.

Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Iran would have to reconsider its membership in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if it faces further pressure for its nuclear activities.

Europe and the United States criticized the latest Iranian announcement. U.S. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Iran had further isolated itself by expanding its nuclear program, rather than suspending enrichment.