Report: Iran temporarily halts 20% uranium enrichment

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Iran has temporarily halted its production of enriched uranium to 20 percent purity as it has sufficient stocks to fuel its Tehran research reactor, a lawmaker was quoted Thursday as saying.

“There is no production at all ... as right now there is no need for the production of 20 percent (enriched) uranium,” the parliament website reported conservative MP Hossein Naqavi Hosseini as saying.

Iran's nuclear enrichment program is at the core of its dispute with world powers, who suspect it masks a drive for atomic weapons despite repeated denials by the Islamic republic.

Enriching uranium to 20 percent purity is a few technical steps short of producing weapons-grade fissile material.

There was no immediate comment on the report from the government, from Iran's atomic organization, nor from the nuclear team tasked with negotiating with world powers over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

The parliamentary website, ICANA.ir, further quoted Naqavi Hosseini as saying the fuel for the Tehran reactor, which is used to produce medical isotopes, is fully stocked.

“This site currently has the required fuel and there is no need to produce (the 20 percent),” said Naqavi Hosseini.

“Tehran itself decides whether to have above five percent enrichment or not. But the issue of suspension and halt is at the moment meaningless as there is no production at all,” he said, referring to Western demands that Tehran suspends the high-level enrichment.

Naqavi Hosseini is spokesman for the foreign policy commission, which is regularly briefed on Iran's nuclear work.

Declarations by members of the commission have on occasions been denied by the government.

All decisions on Iran's nuclear program rest with the ultimate decision-maker, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran insists it will not bow to pressure to end its enrichment program despite repeated demands by the U.N. Security Council and several rounds of sanctions.

Demands that the program be halted were again put forward earlier this year in the Kazakh city of Almaty, in talks between Iran and the P5+1 group -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany.

The halting of the sensitive work could be crucial in resolving the long-running showdown in the negotiations, which were revived last week in Geneva and are set to resume in November.

In the talks, Iran is seeking the lifting of international sanctions which have damaged its struggling economy. World powers for their part are seeking to ensure that Tehran is not able to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran's nuclear enrichment activities are monitored by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.