Iran Says Nuclear Enrichment Has Begun
IAEA inspectors are there, but agency cannot confirm announcement
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2010 10:16 AM CST
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, visits the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Iran took its test of international resolve and patience to the next level today, with state media reporting that it has indeed begun to enrich uranium to a higher level, as threatened yesterday. UN inspectors were present, but couldn't confirm what exactly the Iranians are doing to their current stock of 3.5% enriched uranium, which they say they plan to boost to 20%. The US said it would call for new UN sanctions, and Israel reacted furiously, calling not for "moderate sanctions, or watered-down sanctions" but "crippling sanctions."

Of course the move could still be a bargaining ploy to get the West to reopen negotiations over imported nuclear fuel, the New York Times notes. “The beginning of the enrichment is not tantamount to the end of interaction and negotiations,” Iran’s nuclear chief said, referring to the proposed swap of uranium stock for relatively benign fuel rods. Still, the announcement has spooked even sometime-ally Russia, which says the plans “have raised doubts” about Iran’s ultimate intentions.