News / Middle East

On Revolution Day Iran Says Uranium Further Enriched



Iran's president has told a crowd gathered for the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution that Iran has made its first batch of further-enriched uranium. The announcement is likely to provoke more criticism from from abroad, while the anniversary celebrations have drawn opposition at home.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said scientists have enriched a batch of uranium to 20 percent, a level needed to make fuel for an Iranian research reactor.

The International Atomic Energy Agency was not able to immediately confirm the announcement.  Iran says IAEA inspectors have been monitoring the process, which it says got underway Tuesday.

The two-day turnaround is likely to raise doubts among Western engineers, who said Iran would need a substantial reconfiguring of its known processing capabilities.  

But the timing allowed Mr. Ahmadinejad to add it to the list of Iranian achievements he hailed to massive crowds in Tehran gathered to mark the anniversary.

Hundreds of thousands of people turned out for rallies around the country to observe the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Some of the pro-government gatherings were used to denounce long-time foes Britain and the United States.

Opposition demonstrators tried to hold their own rallies, but there are reports they have been met with tear gas, warning shots and arrests. One pro-reform Web site says the granddaughter of the Republic's founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was briefly detained.

The government had warned it would not tolerate any counter-demonstrations, which sprang up after Mr. Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election last year.   

The Iranian leadership has been criticized internationally for its crackdown on the opposition, as well as for its nuclear program.   The government says the unrest has been fomented by foreign powers, and defends the enrichment as solely for civilian purposes.

Western nations are angry Tehran rejected a United Nations deal to enrich the uranium abroad, which supposedly could delay any Iranian attempt to gain nuclear weapons.

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