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Terrorism & Security

Iran revolution anniversary sparks clashes, arrests in Tehran

As Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Thursday that Iran had produced a higher grade of nuclear fuel, opposition protesters clashed with security forces on the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

By Contributor / February 11, 2010

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at a rally commemorating the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, at Azadi Sq. in Tehran on Thursday.

Vahid Salemi/AP

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Thursday that Iran had produced a higher grade of nuclear fuel, while protesters clashed with security forces as huge crowds gathered in Tehran for a showdown between the government and the opposition on the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

Mr. Ahmadinejad made his declaration that Iran had produced its “first stock” of the 20 percent enriched uranium to a crowd that had massed to celebrate the anniversary, also telling the crowd that Iran was now a “nuclear state,” reports Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Iran announced only Monday that it would begin enriching uranium to 20 percent, saying the nuclear fuel would be used for a medical reactor. Fuel for nuclear power plants is enriched only to a 3.5 percent purity level, while nuclear weapons require uranium enriched to 90 percent. According to The New York Times, experts say that once Iran was able to enrich uranium to the 20 percent level, it could “theoretically also move relatively quickly toward the manufacture of weapons-grade fuel.”

Tehran’s bold announcement comes as the US has prioritized putting new sanctions on Iran. While Russia appears newly open to the idea, China, another permanent member of the UN Security Council, has blocked that effort by voicing its opposition to sanctions on Iran.

But Israeli newspaper Haaretz, quoting UN sources, reports that China is now unlikely to use its veto power to block sanctions and a resolution tightening sanctions is likely to be approved. A Reuters analysis also suggests that China may be leaning toward bowing to Western pressure on sanctions, based on its recent silence on the matter.

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