Page last updated at 22:33 GMT, Monday, 30 November 2009

Nations warn Iran on nuclear sites plan

US envoy to the UN Susan Rice says Iranian plans are "completely inappropriate"

Western nations have warned Iran not to defy international demands by building 10 uranium enrichment sites.

America's envoy to the UN called Iran's announcement "unacceptable", while the French foreign minister said Iran was playing "an extremely dangerous game".

Germany warned Iran to expect further sanctions if it went ahead.

The Iranian government approved the move on Sunday, days after it was rebuked by the UN nuclear watchdog for covering up a uranium enrichment plant.

The head of Iran's nuclear programme, Ali Akbar Salehi, accused the West of provoking his country into launching the plan to build 10 new plants.

However, Iran's parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, said he believed that a diplomatic solution was still possible.

Western powers say Tehran is trying to develop nuclear arms while Iran says it needs nuclear energy for its economy.

'Seriously concerned'

Speaking at the UN, US envoy Susan Rice denounced Tehran's move.

It is clear that if Iran rejects the outstretched hand of the international community, it must expect further sanctions
Guido Westerwelle
German foreign minister

"We view the Iranian announcement, if it is in fact accurate and implemented... as completely inappropriate and further isolating Iran from the international community," she said.

If Iran would not pursue a path of engagement, then the US would "put greater emphasis on the pressure track", she added.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle earlier made similar comments.

"It is clear that if Iran rejects the outstretched hand of the international community, it must expect further sanctions," he said.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called Iran "childish", while a source in Russia's foreign ministry was quoted as saying Moscow was "seriously concerned by the latest statements of the Iranian leadership".

Asked by the BBC if military action by Israel against Iran was now more likely, Israel's ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor, called for "all options to be on the table" without being more specific.

Six nations - the US, UK, France, Germany, China and Russia - have been involved in co-ordinating the UN Security Council's position on Iran.

Existing UN sanctions are meant to prevent the flow of any items or technology which might aid Iran in enriching uranium or developing nuclear weapon delivery systems.

The sanctions range from actual sales or supplies to dealings with named individuals.

'Peaceful message'

Iran's proposed new plants would be of a similar size to its main existing enrichment plant at Natanz.

Iran's uranium conversion facility outside Isfahan (archive image)
Iran is set on processing its own uranium

Mr Salehi, who is also a vice-president, said: "We had no intention of building many facilities like the Natanz site but apparently the West doesn't want to understand Iran's peaceful message."

He accused foreign powers of pushing the UN's nuclear watchdog to rebuke Iran for covering up another uranium enrichment plant near the town of Qom.

"The action by 5+1 [the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany] at the IAEA prompted the [Iranian] government to approve a proposal to build 10 sites like that of Natanz," Mr Salehi said.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told his cabinet at the weekend that parliament had ordered that Iran should produce 20,000 megawatts of nuclear energy by 2020.

It therefore needed to make 250-300 tonnes of nuclear fuel a year, he said, which would require 500,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium.

Natanz has nearly 5,000 working centrifuges, with existing plans to build 54,000 in all.

Mr Larijani told reporters in Tehran that it was in foreign powers' interests to find a diplomatic solution.

"I still think there is a diplomatic opportunity and it is beneficial to them [world powers] to use this, so that Iran continues its work under the framework of the agency [the IAEA] and international supervision," he said.

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