President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday ordered Iran's atomic chief to begin higher uranium enrichment in two to three months if the Western powers do not agree on an enrichment deal.
The statement raised the stakes in a dispute with the West days after the country was seeming to accept a UN-drafted nuclear deal.
Ahmadinejad's declaration drew immediate fire from Britain, which said it was "clearly a matter of serious concern", while US Defence Secretary Robert Gates called for mounting "international pressure" on Iran.
Ahmadinejad, in a speech at an exhibition on laser technology broadcast live on state television, blamed world powers for the stalemate over the nuclear fuel deal, but left the door open for possible negotiation over the proposal. "I had said let us give them [world powers] two to three months and if they don't agree, we would start ourselves," Ahmadinejad said.
"Now Dr [Ali Akbar] Salehi, start to make the 20 per cent with the centrifuges," he told the atomic chief, who was in the audience.
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