US downplays Iran`s "hype" on nuclear advances

The US said Iran is lashing out at world to distract attention from the damage that international sanctions are having at home.

Zeenews Bureau

Washington: The United States on Wednesday downplayed Iran`s latest announcement of nuclear progress, saying Tehran`s reported advances were "not terribly new and not terribly impressive”.

"We frankly don`t see a lot new here. This is not big news. In fact it seems to have been hyped," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

In the meantime, the White House said Iran is lashing out at the world to "distract attention" from the damage that international sanctions are having at home.

At a ceremony held in Tehran on Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled nuclear fuel rods, new generation of centrifuges and a number of radioactive medicines for the treatment of cancer.

He also fed a homemade fuel rod made out of 20-percent enriched uranium into the core of the Tehran Research Reactor.

Iran state media also reported steps to cut oil exports to six European countries in retaliation for new European Union sanctions, including a ban on Iranian oil.

White House press secretary Jay Carney says such "defiant acts" show that Iran`s leaders are under pressure.

The sanctions are intended to persuade Iran to back down. Iran has refused, although it signalled on Wednesday that it is willing to return to talks.

Nuland also confirmed that EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton had got a response from Saeed Jalili, Iran`s chief nuclear negotiator, to the letter she sent in October last year, a move the West had been demanding as a precondition for the resumption of talks with Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.

"Our interest is in Iran abiding by its international obligations, renouncing its interest in nuclear weapons and returning to the international community," Carney said.

"And that path remains open to Iran as long as it is interested in talks that they would approach in a constructive manner," he told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Wisconsin state.

The West suspects that Iran is developing nuclear bombs under the cover of its nuclear programme. But the Islamic republic insists the programme is only for power generation and medical purpose.

(With Agencies’ inputs)