TEHRAN — Iran will not halt its enrichment of uranium up to 20 percent, the country’s nuclear chief told state television on Sunday, backing away from an earlier offer that suggested it might be prepared to cease production of the higher grade nuclear material.
The official, Fereydoon Abbasi, also announced that Iran would start building two new nuclear power plants in 2013, and said that the Islamic Republic’s only active nuclear reactor is getting close to full production levels, after a delay of many years.
He made clear that there will be no suspension of enrichment by Iran, a key demand of a handful of United Nations Security Council resolutions. “We have no reason to retreat from producing the 20 percent because we need 20 percent uranium just as much to meet our needs,” Mr. Abbasi said, according to Iranian state TV.
Mr. Abbasi’s remarks are bound to further complicate already difficult nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, which after an unsuccessful meeting on Wednesday and Thursday in Baghdad will be continued in Moscow one June 18. If the talks fail, the world powers are planning to tighten sanctions on Iranian exports and financial dealings as early as July 1, including placing an embargo on all purchases of Iranian oil in Europe.