Originally Published: September 29, 2003 6:10 p.m.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran acknowledged that traces of highly enriched uranium have turned up at a second site in the country, but insisted the source was contaminated equipment it bought from another country.
The admission this morning came ahead of key negotiations this week with the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency over inspections of Iran's nuclear program. The United States accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists its program is peaceful.
The find of nuclear-grade enriched uranium came at the Kalay-e Electric Co., just west of Tehran, said Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's representative to the IAEA.
Salehi ruled out that Iran produced the enriched uranium at the site and another plant at Natanz. Tehran maintains that traces of the new enriched material were imported on equipment it bought abroad.
The United States, however, has pointed to the discoveries as evidence that Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, and Russia and the European Union have joined in pressing Iran to come clean. The IAEA has set an Oct. 31 deadline for Tehran to consent to unfettered inspections of its facilities.
Also today, Iran's government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh said Iran's right to have a peaceful nuclear program will not be compromised.
"We don't accept any restrictions on the peaceful use of nuclear energy," he told reporters. "Peaceful use of nuclear energy is the right of the Iranian nation and we won't compromise on this."
Ramezanzadeh said Tehran has cooperated fully with the IAEA and future cooperation will depend on upcoming talks with agency inspectors.
Foreign diplomats have said that IAEA inspectors found minute quantities of weapons-grade uranium at Kalay-e, where Iran reportedly tested centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Earlier this year, U.N. inspectors found highly enriched uranium particles at a plant in Natanz that is supposed to produce only a lower grade for energy purposes.