Iran Threatens to Expand Uranium Enrichment if Nuclear Swap Deal Falls Through

Swap would see Iran's low-enriched uranium exchanged for nuclear fuel rods from France; international community says swap does not address key issue of uranium enrichment.

Iran threatened Tuesday that if other countries do not agree on a  swap deal worked out with Turkey and Brazil last year, it would expand its own production of nuclear fuel.

The swap would see Iran's supply of 20 percent, or low-enriched, uranium exchanged for nuclear fuel rods from France. The medium-enriched rods are to be used to fuel a Tehran medical reactor.

Iran nuclear - AP - 2007

"We will not only continue to do the enrichment by ourselves but also build a factory for manufacturing even the fuel rods by ourselves," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

Mehmanparast added that Iran could halt its 20 percent enrichment if the swap was approved.

"As the 20 percent enrichment process is not even economical for us, we would be willing to halt this process and get the necessary fuel for the Tehran reactor from abroad," the spokesman said.

However, if a swap is not made, Iran would have no choice but to continue producing fuel for the Tehran reactor, which Iran has said is used solely for medical purposes, such as treating cancer patients.

"The 20 percent enrichment made in the Tehran reactor is necessary for saving lives, and anything related to this reactor should not be mixed up with political games," Mehmanparast said.

Enriched uranium can be used to produce nuclear weapons. Other nations, including the United States, fear Iran is using its nuclear program for military purposes, which Iran denies. The dispute has dragged on for more than eight years and resulted in multiple rounds of UN sanctions on Iran.

The swap has gone nowhere because the international community said it does not address the key issue of Iran's uranium enrichment.

Iran has expressed hopes to once again revive the plan, but that stance was muddied last month when its nuclear chief, Fereydoun Abbasi, said Iran would no longer discuss the swap and would go ahead with producing low-enriched uranium for the Tehran reactor.