Iran's top atomic official on Tuesday indicated the nation would not back away from its highly contested program to produce higher-enriched uranium, Reuters reported.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran will not suspend 20 percent uranium enrichment because of the demands of others," the Iranian Students' News Agency quoted Atomic Energy Organization Fereidoun Abbasi as saying."The Islamic Republic of Iran will produce 20 percent enriched uranium to meet its needs and for however long it is required."
Persuading Tehran to halt the program has been a key aim in several meetings this year with Iran by six major governments -- China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Iran says it needs 20 percent enriched material for a medical research reactor, while Washington and other capitals fear enrichment to that level is a key step toward production of nuclear weapon-grade material with a refinement of about 90 percent.
A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has led the multilateral talks, on Tuesday said "Iran has to address the immediate key concern, which is the issue of 20 percent enrichment, by taking an initial comprehensive confidence-building step in this area, thereby creating space for more diplomacy and negotiations."
Sources have said a new round of talks could be held by early January. There have been discussions between Tehran and the European Union on when and where the next meeting might occur, according to Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast. "If there is an agreement, it will be announced," he told reporters.
Meanwhile, a senior Israeli official on Tuesday said the United States has ramped up effort to deal with Iran in the wake of the November re-election of President Obama, Reuters separately reported.
"Indeed it has been renewed," Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said to Army Radio. The official noted preparations for additional talks, continued economic penalties targeting Tehran, "and preparations, mainly American for now, for the possibility that military force will have to be used."
The Obama administration has said armed action remains an option against Iran if diplomacy and sanctions cannot break the nuclear standoff.