Tehran, 11 Feb. (AKI) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday announced that his country had produced its first 20 percent-enriched uranium two days after Tehran said it would make high-grade nuclear fuel.
“By the grace of God … it was reported that the first consignment of 20 percent enriched uranium was produced and was put at the disposal of scientists,” he told thousands of people who gathered in Tehran on Thursday to mark the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Iran “is now a nuclear state,” he said.
In a provocative move, Ahmadinejad told the crowds who gathered for the celebrations in central Tehran that Iran would tripple its fuel output, adding it was able to refine the material further at its Natanz enrichment plant.
Ahmadinejad has come under pressure from western countries who are concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the potential to produce nuclear weapons, rather than using the uranium for peaceful ends.
Western experts have said that once Iran is able to enrich uranium to 20 percent it could theoretically move quickly towards manufacturing weapons-grade fuel which requires around 90 percent purification.
US president Barack Obama and many European leaders have called for greater sanctions against Tehran in an effort to force it to curb its nuclear programme.
The US Treasury department imposed sanctions on Wednesday on a commander and four companies linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, highlighting the Obama administration’s determination to single out the elite corps and curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Opposition demonstrators also reportedly gathered throughout Iran on Thursday in renewed protests against last year’s disputed presidential election that returned Ahmadinejad.
Opposition blogs and websites carried unconfirmed reports of gun shots and tear gas being fired at protesters as well as attacks on opposition leaders.
Pro-government forces attacked reformist politician Mahdi Karroubi and fired on demonstrators at a protest, according to the opposition website The Green Voice of Freedom.
“Karroubi has been severely attacked by pro-government forces and eye witnesses have reported injury to the veteran politician’s head,” the website said.
“Security forces opened fired at protesters and fired tear gas in central Tehran,” it said.