The International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, recently confirmed that Iran has expanded its enrichment of uranium to higher levels. IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said that when inspectors visited the Natanz nuclear facility in July, "Iran was feeding nuclear material to 2 interconnected 164-machine centrifuge cascades." This, she added, was "contrary to UN Security Council resolutions affirming that Iran should suspend all enrichment-related activities."
State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said the IAEA announcement of the additional Iranian enrichment equipment "again validates the strong concerns of the United States and the international community:"
"Iran is in fact not abiding by its international obligations. There's no justification for its ongoing enrichment to 20 percent; certainly not related to the TRR [Tehran Research Reactor] or any other project. Iran should meet its obligations under the NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty]. It should cooperate fully with the IAEA."
In addition to the IAEA's announcement, Atomic Energy of Iran head Ali Akbar Salehi said that Iran had finished the site selection for 10 new uranium enrichment centers. Mr. Salehi indicated that the construction of 1 of these sites would begin at the end of the current Iranian year, March 2011, or the beginning of the next Iranian year. The United States views the announcement by Mr. Salehi as yet another indication of Iran's flagrant violation of its obligations.
In February, Iran began enriching uranium to almost 20%, allegedly to produce fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, known as the TRR. The international community fears that Iran could use its enrichment capabilities to produce highly enriched uranium suitable for use in nuclear weapons.
The U.N. Security Council recently imposed a fourth round of economic sanctions on Iran to pressure the government to comply with its international obligations and halt its enrichment, reprocessing, and heavy water-related activities. The EU, the U.S., and other countries have followed with supplementary measures of their own.
State Department spokesman Crowley said the U.S. remains ready to engage Iran diplomatically "on these issues and a broader range of subjects... We are hopeful that Iran will express a willingness to come to the table," said Mr. Crowley. "We stand ready to have that dialogue."