Iran could halt higher enrichment if given fuel: Ahmadinejad

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Iran would consider halting its 20 percent uranium enrichment if the West provides the fuel for a medical reactor in Tehran, ISNA news agency reported on Saturday.

“Whenever they give us the fuel and we are in possession of it, we can examine a halt” in enriching uranium to 20 percent, Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying at a press conference in New York on Friday.

In February, Ahmadinejad ordered Iranian atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi to step up uranium refinement to 20 percent after a deal drafted by the UN atomic watchdog to supply the material to Tehran hit deadlock.

“Initially, we were not interested in building a new plant for the 20 percent fuel. Based on the law, members of the (International Atomic Energy) Agency were supposed to provide us with the fuel,” Ahmadinejad said.

“We informed the agency of our demand that member states should give us the fuel, but they turned this issue into a political game,” he said.

Iran had previously enriched uranium to just 3.5 percent purity but it says the 20 percent enrichment is required to fuel the reactor in the capital.

Since February, Iranian officials have said on several occasions that they could stop 20 percent enrichment if negotiations with the West to exchange their lower level uranium for the fuel are successful.

World powers, led by Washington, strongly oppose Iran’s uranium enrichment programme which they suspect masks a nuclear weapons drive, something Tehran vehemently denies.

Experts say that by enriching uranium to the 20 percent level, Iran has theoretically come closer to the 90 percent purity needed for an atomic bomb.