British Foreign Secretary William Hague sharply criticised Iran on Monday after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that Iran had begun uranium enrichment at a heavily fortified underground plant near the holy city of Qoms.
The IAEA said it could “confirm that Iran has started the production of uranium enriched up to 20 per cent.”
“I am extremely disappointed by Iran's decision to start enrichment operations at its Qom facility,” Hague said.
According to the IAEA, “all nuclear material in the facility remains under the agency’s containment and surveillance.”
However, Hague called the move “provocative.”
“At a time when the international community is asking Iran to provide assurances of the peaceful nature of its programme, this is a provocative act which further undermines Iran’s claims that its programme is entirely civilian in nature.”
Hague expressed his doubts about Iran’s reasons for enrichment.
“Iran can provide no credible rationale for producing so much enriched uranium. Its claim to be enriching for the Tehran Research Reactor does not stand up to serious scrutiny,” he said.
He challenged Iran’s argument that it needs enriched uranium to increase its power supply.
“Iran already has sufficient enriched uranium to power the reactor for more than five years and has not even installed the equipment necessary to manufacture fuel elements,” Hague said.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been insistent that Iran would not bow to pressure from the West.
In a speech broadcast on Iranian state television on Monday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insisted on remaining steadfast under pressure from the West.
“The Islamic establishment knows firmly what it is doing and has chosen its path and will stay the course," Khamenei said.
Relations between the United Kingdom and Iran are at their worst within the last decade, though not severed entirely. London expelled all Iranian diplomats late last year after the British embassy in Tehran was stormed by Iranian demonstrators. It also accused the Iranian regime of condoning the attack and said the majority of those attacking the embassy were members of groups supported by the regime.