"I officially announce that Iran has joined the world’s nuclear countries", Ahmadinejad

Iran has successfully enriched uranium for the first time, a landmark in its quest to develop nuclear fuel, hard-liner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday, insisting his country does not aim to develop nuclear weapons.

Speaking in a nationally televised speech, Ahmadinejad called on the West "not to cause an everlasting hatred in the hearts of Iranians" by trying to force Iran to abandon uranium enrichment.

The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran stop all uranium enrichment activity by April 28. Iran has rejected the demand, saying it has a right to develop the process. The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, is due in Iran this week for talks to try to resolve the standoff.

"At this historic moment, with the blessings of God Almighty and the efforts made by our scientists, I declare here that the laboratory-scale nuclear fuel cycle has been completed and young scientists produced enriched uranium needed to the degree for nuclear power plants Sunday,"Ahmadinejad said, reports AP.

According to Xinhua, Iranian nuclear chief Gholam Reza Aghazadeh announced on Tuesday that Iran had successfully produced 3.5 percent enriched uranium.

"We have started enriching uranium to the 3.5 percent level," Aghazadeh said in a televised speech, revealing that Iran's main nuclear facility in Natanz in central Iran had started working on Monday.

The senior Iranian official also said that the success in producing low-grade enriched uranium would pave the way for Iran to start industrial-scale production, adding that efforts were underway to expand the operations of the centrifuges.

"To start industrial-scale production, we should operate 3,000 centrifuges by the end of this (Iranian) year (which ends in March 2007)," said Aghazadeh, who serves as chairman of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization.

Radical Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared on Tuesday that Iran had officially joined the group of countries with nuclear capabilities commonly known as the Nuclear Club.
"I officially announce that Iran has joined the world’s nuclear countries", Ahmadinejad said in a speech that was broadcast on state television.

"This is the start of greater progress and achievements", he said. Earlier in the day, former Iranian President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani announced that Iran had began uranium enrichment, despite a call by the United Nations Security Council for it to cease all uranium enrichment activities.

"We operated the first unit which comprises of 164 centrifuges, gas was injected, and we got the industrial output”, Rafsanjani, who currently chairs the State Expediency Council (SEC), told the Kuwaiti news agency in Tehran.

The UN Security Council adopted a "Presidential Statement" unanimously on March 29 giving Iran 30 days to suspend all of its uranium enrichment activities and resume its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, informs Iran Focus .

O.Ch.