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Austria threatens Iran with sanctions

Austria joins the US in stepping up efforts to punish Iran over Tehran’s decision to produce nuclear fuel for a research reactor, warning that sanctions could be in store for the Islamic Republic.

“Iran can still return to the negotiating table but it must realize it has now exhausted the patience of the international community,” Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said on Friday.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s proposal to enrich uranium abroad would have been a promising and confidence-building measure, but unfortunately Iran did not grasp this outstretched hand,” he told journalists after meeting with the chief of the Vienna-based IAEA Yukiya Amano.

“Now the ball is in the UN Security Council’s court,” he added, warning that time was running out for a negotiated solution to Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran announced on Tuesday that it had started enriching uranium to a level of 20 percent after potential suppliers failed to provide fuel for Tehran’s research reactor, which produces medical isotopes for cancer patients.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that Iran had produced the first stock of 20 percent-enriched uranium at the Natanz enrichment facility.

This sparked anger in the West, which has been pressuring Iran to accept a UN-backed draft deal, which requires Iran to send most of its domestically-produced low enriched uranium abroad for conversion into the more refined fuel that the Tehran research reactor requires to produce medical isotopes.

Iran has requested the UN nuclear watchdog to arrange for the supplying of the fuel to the country.

Iran says it is still open to talks on a fuel swap with the West. However, it reiterated that its “conditions,” mainly revolving around guarantee issues, must be taken into account if the West is interested in a fuel exchange with Iran.

Iran needs 120 kg (264 lb) of 20 percent-enriched uranium to fuel the Tehran research reactor, which is soon to run out of fuel.

If the research reactor’s fuel completely dries out, there will be heavy consequences for thousands of Iranian patients, who desperately need post-surgery treatment with radio medicine.

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