Iran suspends enrichment of uranium stockpiles
Tehran: Iran has suspended the enrichment of uranium stockpiles to the 20 percent purity needed to bring it a short step from building a nuclear device.
Mohammad Hossein Asfari, a member of parliament responsible for foreign policy and national security, termed the move a ‘goodwill’ gesture, aimed at softening Iran's position before a new round of scheduled talks with the US after this week's presidential elections, reports The Guardian.
Asfari said he hoped sanctions would be lifted in return for Iran's actions, otherwise it would resume the programme. Talks aimed at halting Iran's enrichment programme have made little progress, leading to the west tightening sanctions and increasing the prospect of military action by Israel, the paper said.
Iran's economy has plummeted in the grip of punitive economic measures and Tehran indicated earlier this month that it would be willing to negotiate. However, the offer to suspend enrichment required so many concessions that it was dismissed by the US.
Iran has a stockpile of 20 percent uranium weighing just over 90 kg according to an International Energy Agency watchdog report in August.
According to experts, between 200-250kg is needed for one nuclear device. Once uranium reaches 20 percent purity, it is close to becoming weapons grade. Experts have estimated it would take Iran another year to produce a warhead small enough to put on a missile.
Tehran is said to have nearly completed a nuclear enrichment plan with the last of 3,000 uranium centrifuges installed at the underground site of Fordo, near the holy city of Qum.
Iran has said it needs to refine uranium for civilian use, with the material converted to fuel rods used for medical isotopes to diagnose and treat illnesses.