Iran warns West it will make its own nuclear fuel

(01-02) 12:22 PST TEHRAN, Iran (AP) --

Iran set a one-month deadline Saturday for the West to accept its counterproposal to a U.N.-drafted nuclear plan and warned that otherwise it will produce reactor fuel at a higher level of enrichment on its own.

The warning was a show of defiance and a hardening of Iran's stance over its nuclear program, which the West fears masks an effort to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran insists its program is only for peaceful purposes, such as electricity production, and says it has no intention of making a bomb.

"We have given them an ultimatum. There is one month left and that is by the end of January," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, speaking on state television.

Even if Tehran started working on the fuel production immediately, it would likely take years before it could master the technology to turn uranium enriched to the level of 20 percent into the fuel rods it needs for a medical research reactor.

Still, any threat to enrich uranium to a higher level is likely to rattle the world powers that have been trying to persuade Iran to forgo enrichment altogether.

Enrichment is at the center of the West's concerns because at high levels it can be used in making nuclear weapons. At lower levels, enriched uranium is used in the production of fuel for nuclear power plants.

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