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10

Iran To Convert Uranium

Iran is converting uranium, vice president announces

Defying a key demand set by 35 nations, Iran announced today that it has started converting raw uranium into the gas needed for enrichment, a process that can be used to make nuclear weapons.

?Tests are going on successfully? to make uranium hexafluoride gas, the feed stock for enrichment, said Iranian Vice President Reza Aghazadeh in Vienna.

Of the more than 40 tons of raw uranium being mined for conversion, ?some has been used?, he said.

His comments, outside the 137-nation International Atomic Energy Authority conference was the latest sign that Iran was ignoring demands made on the weekend by the agency?s board of governors to suspend all enrichment and related activities and banish international fears the technology could be used to make weapons.

In Tehran earlier today, President Mohammad Khatami said today Iran will continue its nuclear development programme even if it meant ending inspections by the UN?s nuclear agency.

?We?ve made our choice. Yes to peaceful nuclear technology, no to atomic weapons,? Khatami told a military parade in Tehran.

?We will continue along our path even if it leads to an end to international supervision of our nuclear activities,? Khatami said.

The UN watchdog, the IAEA, has demanded that Iran freeze uranium enrichment and answer all questions about its nuclear activities within two months. Failure to do so could lead to the IAEA passing Iran?s nuclear file to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions on the country.

The US believes Iran is covertly developing nuclear weapons and has been lobbying for the country to be referred to the Security Council. Iran insists that its nuclear programme is strictly for the generation of electricity.

?They have to explicitly recognise our natural and legal right (to peaceful nuclear energy) to open the way for greater understanding and co-operation,? Khatami said.

?We?ve made our choice. Now it is up to others to make their choice,? he added.