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Iran Steps Up Production of Enriched Uranium

Iran's atomic energy chief says his country can now produce 20-percent enriched uranium on a regular basis, a step that puts Iran closer to being able to manufacture uranium at levels necessary to make an atomic bomb.

Ali Akbar Salehi told the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) Wednesday that Iran now has the capacity to produce five kilograms of 20-percent-enriched uranium a month. He says Iran has already produced 17-kilograms of uranium at 20-percent purity, but he says Iran will only make as much as needed for a medical research reactor in the capital, Tehran.

Enriching uranium at 20-percent purity enables Iran to step up its production of fuel for its nuclear reactor, and also cut the time needed to enrich uranium to 90-percent purity - something that would be necessary for Iran to produce an atomic bomb, something Western nations say Iran is intent on doing. Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes.

The announcement comes a day after a top U.S. Treasury official said new U.N. sanctions, together with unilateral measures proposed by the United States, the European Union and others, are effectively cutting Iran off from the global economy.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has condemned the new sanctions against Iran, which he said were imposed by "arrogant powers." He called the sanctions exaggerated and desperate in remarks to university professors in Tehran.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.