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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 April, 2004, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Iran 'to press on with reactor'
Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant under construction
The US wants Iran to stop building a nuclear plant at Bushehr
Iran plans to start building a heavy water reactor which could produce weapons-grade plutonium, diplomats say.

Tehran told the head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) it would start construction in June, the sources at the IAEA said.

Although Iran insists the plant is purely for research, the diplomats say it is a worrying development.

One said the plant could produce enough plutonium to make a nuclear weapon each year.

Mohamed ElBaradei was told of Iran's plans on Tuesday, during a visit to the Iranian capital, the sources said.

The plant would be built in Arak, 200km (120 miles) southwest of Tehran.

'Bad signal'

Mr ElBaradei has been conducting an assessment of Iran's nuclear ambitions, after the discovery last year that it had not disclosed large-scale efforts to enrich uranium, which can be used in nuclear warheads.

The latest report on the reactor "sends a bad signal at a time all eyes are on Iran," an unnamed diplomat told the AP news agency.

Iran says it needs the reactor to produce radioisotopes for medical research.

But spent fuel rods from the heavy water nuclear reactor could be reprocessed to produce plutonium.

Iran has been trying to counter international concern that it is attempting to build a nuclear arsenal, promising to tell the IAEA everything about its nuclear activities.

The IAEA is due to meet in June to discuss progress. If it decides there are reasons to censure Iran, the case may be passed to the United Nations Security Council.


SEE ALSO:
Iran agrees to nuclear timetable
06 Apr 04  |  Middle East
Iran uranium plant sparks new row
01 Apr 04  |  Middle East
Nuclear inspectors return to Iran
27 Mar 04  |  Middle East
UN condemns Iran nuclear secrecy
13 Mar 04  |  Middle East
Iran slams US nuclear 'bullying'
10 Mar 04  |  Middle East
Q&A: Iran's nuclear programme
18 Dec 03  |  Middle East


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