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Enrichment of uranium resumed, Iran reports

Iran has resumed small-scale enrichment of uranium, a senior Iranian nuclear negotiator said Tuesday - a defiant declaration in the face of global opposition to Iran's atomic program.

The resumption still leaves Iran a long way from reaching the stage the world fears most: large-scale enrichment of uranium - a process that can produce fuel for an atomic bomb.

Javad Vaeidi, deputy secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, in announcing the small-scale enrichment, also told reporters that Iran would resume negotiations with Moscow on Feb. 20 over its plan to enrich Iranian uranium on Russian soil - a proposal designed to allay fears that Iran will build nuclear weapons.

The negotiations with Russia had been due to resume Thursday, but Iran said Monday they were postponed indefinitely.

Vaeidi said that enrichment of uranium resumed last week at Natanz, the country's main enrichment plant, but that Iran had not resumed large-scale enrichment, as required for producing fuel for nuclear reactors.

In Israel, Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Knesset's defense and foreign affairs committee, said Tuesday's announcement made it clear that "time is running out."

"If the Iranians will not be blocked, in due course they will obtain a nuclear weapon," he told the Associated Press. "This will be a devastating threat not only to Israel and the Middle East but also to Europe and the United States."