Monday, August 07, 2006

Iran denies reported bid to import uranium from DR Congo

Iran denies reported bid to import uranium from DR Congo

by Staff Writers
Tehran, Aug 6, 2006

Tehran on Sunday rejected a British newspaper report that Iran had tried to import uranium for its nuclear program from the Democratic Republic of Congo, calling it part of the West's "psychological war."

The report "is utterly untrue, because we do not need to import uranium while we have uranium mines and a plant to reprocess it," Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani told reporters.

"This is part of a psychological war which the Americans resort to once in a while to feed the public mind," Larijani added.

Citing a senior Tanzanian customs officer, the British daily Sunday Times reported that a huge shipment of uranium 238, or U-238, bound for Iran's southern port of Bandar Abbas was intercepted on October 22, 2005 by customs officials in Tanzania during a routine check.

The British publication also cited a United Nations report, due to be considered by the Security Council, which said there was "no doubt" that a large shipment of U-238 discovered in Tanzania was transported from the Lubumbashi mines in the DR Congo.

The unnamed customs official said the uranium shipment was found hidden in a consignment of coltan, a rare mineral, which was destined for smelting in Kazakhstan after being transported through the Iranian port.

U-238 is the stable heavyweight isotope which comprises more than 99 percent of raw uranium ore, but it is the lighter weight fissile isotope U-235, less than one percent of raw ore, which is the focus of enrichment processing because it can produce energy by splitting into smaller fragments.

Larijani on Sunday also said his country would not suspend uranium enrichment, in a clear rejection of a UN resolution calling for a freeze of the sensitive nuclear work.

Iran insists it wants to enrich uranium only to make reactor fuel for power stations but the West suspect Tehran wants the capacity to make weapons-grade uranium.

A recent UN resolution called on Iran to halt uranium enrichment and other sensitive nuclear fuel work by August 31 or face the prospect of sanctions.

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