US envoy criticizes Iran on nuclear enrichment
Says plan hurts cancer patients
VIENNA - A senior US envoy accused Iranian leaders of hypocrisy yesterday for opting to pursue “ever more dangerous nuclear technology’’ instead of accepting an international plan to make sure medical isotopes get to needy cancer patients.
Glyn Davies, the chief US delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, leveled the sharp criticism a day after Iran began enriching its uranium to a higher level.
That increased international concerns about Iran’s nuclear aims and led Washington yesterday to impose new sanctions on several affiliates of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps over their alleged involvement in producing and spreading weapons of mass destruction.
The US Treasury Department announced it would freeze assets in US jurisdictions of Revolutionary Guard General Rostam Qasemi and four subsidiaries of a construction firm he commands.
Tehran says it wants to enrich its uranium only up to 20 percent - substantially below the 90 percent level used in the core of nuclear warheads - as a part of a plan to fuel its research reactor, which provides isotopes to hundreds of thousands of Iranians undergoing cancer treatment.
But the West says Tehran is not capable of turning the material into the fuel rods needed by the reactor. Instead it fears that Iran wants to enrich the uranium to make nuclear weapons.
The move is viewed with concern internationally because it would create material that could then be processed into weapons-grade uranium more quickly and with less effort than Iran’s present stockpile of 3.5 percent-enriched uranium.
“Why is Tehran gambling with the health and lives of 850,000 Iranian cancer patients in pursuit of ever-more-dangerous nuclear technology?’’ asked Davies. “This move is callous and chilling.’’
David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington-based organization, said higher enrichment means Iran is getting a step closer to the ability to make nuclear weapons.
“Iran is slowly expanding its breakout capability,’’ Albright said in an e-mail. He said achieving the 20 percent level “would be going most of the rest of the way to weapon-grade uranium.’’