Senior Iran lawmaker says 20 per cent uranium enrichment continuing

Senior Iran lawmaker says 20 per cent uranium enrichment continuing
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliamentary committee for national security and foreign policy, arrives for a news conference after meeting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, at the Iranian embassy in Damascus September 1, 2013.

DUBAI - Iran has not halted its most sensitive uranium enrichment work, a senior Iranian parliamentarian said, contradicting a statement by another lawmaker last week.

Diplomats accredited to the UN nuclear watchdog said on Friday they had no information to substantiate the report that Tehran had halted enrichment of uranium to 20 per cent. Israel on Saturday also dismissed the original report as "irrelevant".

Any halt of enrichment would be a big surprise, as Western experts believe Iran would want to use such activity as a bargaining chip to win relief from international sanctions.

An end to Iran's higher-grade enrichment of uranium is a main demand of world powers negotiating with Tehran over its disputed nuclear work. Enriching uranium to 20 per cent is sensitive as it is a relatively short technical step to increase that to the 90 per cent needed for making a nuclear weapon.

"Enrichment to 20 per cent is continuing," state news agency IRNA quoted Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, as saying on Saturday.

His statement contradicted that of another senior lawmaker, Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, who had said Iran had stopped enriching uranium above 5 per cent because it already had all the 20 per cent enriched fuel it needs for a medical research reactor in Tehran.

Iran and six world powers, known as the P5+1, are engaged in negotiations to bring about a diplomatic resolution to the dispute, which has raised fears of a new conflict in the Middle East and brought punishing sanctions on Iran's energy, shipping, and banking sectors. Their last meeting was held in October in Geneva, and another one is scheduled for November.

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