Iran takes next nuclear production step

 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said his country's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and the new heavy-water production plant he inaugurated Saturday would serve medical, agricultural and scientific needs.

Video broadcast on Iranian television showed President Ahmadinejad touring the plant in the central Iran city of Arak Saturday morning along with Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization.

Ahmadinajad said scientists, journalists and students should be allowed to visit the facility so they could see that it is for peaceful purposes, Iranian television reported.

He said Iran would spare no effort to reach its peaceful nuclear objectives and that his country is no threat to any other country.

"No one can deprive a nation of its rights based on its capabilities," Ahmadinejad said in his speech to inaugurate the project, according to Reuters.

"Iran is not a threat to anybody, not even to the Zionist regime," Ahmadinejad said, using Iran's term for its arch-enemy Israel, which the Islamic Republic does not recognize.

Heavy water is used in preparing uranium for nuclear weapons, but it is also useful for medical purposes, such as nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.

Western nations accuse Iran of seeking to master technology to produce nuclear weapons. Iran, the world's fourth largest oil exporter, insists it only wants to produce electricity.

Iranian officials have insisted that their nuclear program is solely for peaceful generation of power and that they have no ambitions to build nuclear weapons.

On July 31, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution giving Iran until the end of next week to agree to suspend its uranium enrichment program, which would pave the way for the Tehran regime to receive financial incentives.

The United States has also held out the possibility of resuming direct contacts with Iran, more than 25 years after the two countries broke off diplomatic relations.

However, if the Iranians do not accept the offer, then the U.N. Security Council will discuss a resolution proposing economic sanctions on Iran.

While such a move is backed by three of the council's permanent members -- the United States, Britain and France -- the two others, Russia and China, have been cool to the idea and could use their veto to block a sanctions resolution.

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said Tuesday that the U.S. "will be prepared to submit elements of a resolution very quickly" if Iran did not accept what he termed a "very generous offer."

"This is a test for the (Security) Council," Bolton said. "We will see how it responds."

Even if Iran rejected suspension of its uranium program in its initial response, some U.N. diplomats were holding out hope that the Iranians might change their mind before the August 31 deadline set out in the Security Council resolution.

Source: CNN