Iran's representative at the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), Ali-Akbar Salehi, said that the discovery of an uranium mine, and achieving the high technology of producing nuclear reactor fuel in Iran are among significant scientific achievements of the country.
Speaking to IRNA in Vienna, Salehi added, "reaching the production phase of the factory producing the 'Yellow Cake' or the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF), that produces the main substance needed in manufacturing nuclear fuel, is in itself a great scientific achievement of eventful significance."
He said that reaching the operational phase of such a high-tech facility, despite the existing deficiencies in Iran at the time, and relying merely on the technical knowledge and sincere donations of the worthy and reputable Iranian scientists call for great applause of the nation and their officials.
Salehi added, "due to the particular complex nature of the facilities and technology needed to put the functional phase such a factory, that is monopolized in a few technologically advanced countries in the world, the significance of this achievement is more noteworthy.
Answering a question put forth by IRNA on the reason why President Seyed Mohammad Khatami announced the news regarding this achievement under the current tense atmosphere prevailing in the region, Iran's representative at the IAEA said, "it is a routine annual tradition to announce significant achievements of various government sectors during the Ten-Day Dawn ceremonies marking the victory of the Islamic revolution of Iran.
He said that Iran's UCF project had been pursued for quite a long period, and Iran's Atomic Energy Organization provided the president with the news of the great scientific achievement, in order to reveal it for the Iranian nation and the world scientific centers.
The Iranian authority added, "the IAEA was informed of Iran's activities in isfahan's UCF during a trip of its officials to Iran three years ago.
Ali-Akbar Salehi said, "since the Islamic Republic of Iran's policies regarding the peaceful use of the atomic energy have always been quite open and crystal-clear, the IAEA has not only been constantly informed of Iran's activities in that respect, but been sincerely cooperating closely and assisting Iran, too."
Referring to the IAEA Chief Mohamed El Baradei's upcoming trip to Iran at the invitation of Iran's President Khatami, he added, "Isfahan's UCF will be officially put to use during Dr. El Baradei's visit."
The Iranian envoy at the IAEA considered Iran's close cooperation with the IAEA another clear sign of the transparency of policies adopted by Iran regarding its peaceful use of the atomic energy.
The United States said Monday that Iran's admission that it is mining uranium added to already "grave concerns" that the country is secretly pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
"We continue to have very grave concerns that Iran is using its supposedly peaceful nuclear program, including construction of a reactor at Bushehr, as a pretext for advancing a nuclear weapons program," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
His comments followed an announcement on Sunday by Iran's President Seyed Mohammad Khatami that Tehran had discovered uranium deposits near the central city of Yazd and had already taken steps to begin exploiting them.
He said a uranium oxide plant had been completed in the central city of Isfahan and that it would be complemented by an enrichment plant now under construction near Kashan to its north.
President Khatami also said work had begun in Yazd province on a plant to produce concentrated "yellow cake," while a further facility at an undisclosed location would complete the cycle by turning out finished fuel entirely made in Iran.
But he insisted that Iran was only interested in the uranium for power generation and repeated assertions that it remained committed to a peaceful nuclear program.
Washington has long complained to Russia over its nuclear cooperation with Iran, particularly on the construction of the reactor in the southern port of Bushehr, warning that it is an unacceptable proliferation risk.
Last year, in response to those concerns Moscow informed Washington that the return of all spent fuel is a stated condition in working on the nuclear projects of Iran.
President Khatami's cabinet spokesman Dr. Abdollah Ramezanzadeh in a press conference in Qom, reflecting on the recent remarks by the Iranian president on the country's nuclear activities and probable international reactions to them, said, "Mr. Khatami's remarks in that regard were not politically motivated, but rather the announcement of reaching to the successful final stage of national project at the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, as a significant scientific and technological achievement for the Iranian nation.
The government spokesman emphasized: "We, by no means, have any intention of taking military advantage if this technology, and therefore using the word 'preemptive' in referring to it is definitely meaningless."
Ramezanzadeh stressed that in order to achieve its development objectives, Iran is definitely in need of searching for energy resources, and merely relying on the fossil fuels, or the hydroelectric power gained from the country's dams would not respond to the total demand for energy, particularly in predictable future.
He said, "Iran, like all other countries, reserves the right to take peaceful advantage of all types of technology."
He added, "we intend to take peaceful advantage of nuclear technology to provide for Iran's demands for energy, although the others might attribute other intentions in this regard to us, but that would not make us abandon our natural rights.
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