8 Feb 2010

Iran nuclear challenge draws condemnation

9:06 pm on 8 February 2010

Iran's president has told the country's nuclear chief to step up the enrichment of uranium, in a move that has brought condemnation from some Western nations.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has asked uranium to be enriched to 20%. Civilian nuclear power requires uranium enriched to about 3% while weapons-grade uranium needs to be enriched to 90%.

Britain and Germany have condemned the move, while the United States Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, has called for increased pressure on Iran.

Mr Ahmadinejad made the announcement a day after Western scepticism had been expressed at Iran's earlier claim that a deal to swap enriched uranium for nuclear fuel was close.

Tehran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful.