Excerpts from Reuters:
Iran ratchets up atom work despite sanctions threatTEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's president gave instructions on Sunday for the production of higher-grade nuclear reactor fuel, prompting the United States and Germany to threaten carefully targeted new sanctions against Tehran.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's announcement raised the stakes in Iran's dispute with the West, but he said talks were still possible on a nuclear swap offer by world powers designed to allay fears the Islamic Republic is making an atomic bomb.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the response by Iran, a major oil exporter which says its nuclear program is to make electricity and not bombs, was very disappointing.
"If the international community will stand together and bring pressure to bear on the Iranian government, I believe there is still time for sanctions and pressure to work," he told a news conference during a visit to Italy.
There was international consensus to avoid "more hardship than is absolutely necessary" on the Iranian people, said Gates.
Germany also raised the sanctions threat, while Britain said Iran's new plans would breach U.N. resolutions.
"It may be that the sanctions screw needs to be or can be turned here and there. We need to consider very carefully what impact our options could have," German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said, adding it should be made clear to Iran that "patience is at an end."
Iran has already had three sets of sanctions imposed on it. China, which has veto power in the U.N. Security Council, has made clear it wants big powers to keep talking to Iran rather than impose new measures.
The United States, China and other major powers have proposed that Iran send most of its low-enriched uranium abroad in return for nuclear fuel refined to a level of 20 percent, for use in the Tehran reactor producing medical isotopes.
From UK Telegraph:
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