Iran unveils uranium sites, renews defiant tone
MOSCOW — Iran announced an enlargement of its uranium production and asserted other atomic energy advances on Tuesday, striking a defiant tone in the aftermath of diplomatic talks this past weekend in Kazakhstan that ended in an impasse.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who proclaimed the expansions in a speech, coupled them with harsh criticism of what he called ‘‘hegemonic powers’’ that have sought to damage Iran’s dignity through pressures — a clear reference to economic sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union over the nuclear dispute.
“Iran has already become a nuclear country and no one is capable of stealing this title,’’ the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying at a ceremony held to commemorate National Nuclear Technology Day, a holiday he created in 2006 during his first term in office in order to exalt Iran’s nuclear energy achievements.
“They caused restrictions and issued threats, thinking that the Iranian nation cannot achieve nuclear energy,’’ he was quoted as saying. ‘‘The best way for you is to cooperate with Iran.’’
While such rhetoric is hardly out of character, it underscored just how firmly dug-in Iran remains despite the international sanctions that have a stranglehold on its economy, and highlighted the huge divide that exists between Iran and the six world powers that are demanding it curb its disputed nuclear program.
Iran has defied United Nations Security Council demands for a halt to the uranium enrichment until questions about its nuclear intentions are answered. Iran denies that its intent is to build a nuclear weapon, but the bigger powers suspect otherwise.
The talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, ended late Saturday not only without a deal, but with no plans for a next round of discussions — capping a year of talks that by all accounts have not brought the sides any closer. At a briefing after the talks, a senior American official said Iran had not offered a detailed response to a proposal put forward by the big powers in February and had made unrealistic demands.
‘‘That minimal response not only had very, very tiny steps in our view, but wanted a lot in return for those tiny steps,’’ the American official said. ‘‘So this is a negotiation, but the gulf between their current position and ours is quite great.’’
As Israel and other critics who believe the Iranians are merely stalling for time to develop a nuclear weapon renewed their calls for more decisive action, negotiators for the big powers planned to confer with senior officials in London, where the Group of 8 foreign ministers are meeting this week.
Negotiators for the so-called P5-plus-1, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States — plus Germany, had expressed hope that the stalled talks would give the Iranians pause.