TEHRAN, Iran – Iran on Wednesday dismissed a U.N. report that inspectors found new traces of enriched uranium and plutonium at an Iranian nuclear waste facility, saying it has already explained the discovery.
Iran's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, insisted the West will gradually back down in its standoff with Iran and eventually accept its nuclear program.
"While the West tries to thwart the progress of our nation, time is on our side," Ahmadinejad told a crowd in Sanandaj, capital city of Iran's Kurdistan province, 311 miles west of the capital, Tehran.
"They would have to take one step back with every passing day and approve the right of the Iranian people," he said.
Ahmadinejad's comments came a day after the International Atomic Energy Agency report saying its experts have found unexplained plutonium and highly enriched uranium traces in a nuclear waste facility in Iran. Both materials can be used in building a nuclear warhead, though one U.N. official said the uranium was not enriched to weapons-grade level.
The United States accuses Iran of seeking to build nuclear bombs under cover of a civilian nuclear program. Iran denies this, insisting that its program is entirely geared toward producing electricity.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the parliamentary committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, called the report "an old story."
"This is an old story and contains no new points," Boroujerdi told the official Islamic Republic News Agency on Wednesday. "Iran has submitted a comprehensive report on the issue to the IAEA. It will be convincing."
He did not elaborate on the source of the traces. Iran has said that previous traces of enriched uranium found by inspectors came from equipment that it bought from abroad without knowing of the contamination.
A senior U.N. official who was familiar with the report cautioned against reading too much into the new findings, saying Iran had explained both and they could plausibly be classified as byproducts of peaceful nuclear activities.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the report publicly, said that while the uranium traces were enriched to a higher level than needed to generate power, they were below weapons-grade.
The report, prepared for next week's meeting of the 35-nation IAEA, also faulted Tehran for not cooperating with the agency's attempts to investigate suspicious aspects of Iran's nuclear program that have led to fears it might be interested in developing nuclear arms.
"We are seeing a repeat of a few traditional sentences that Mr. ElBaradei regularly reiterates," said Boroujerdi.
Both the U.S. and the U.K have recently called on Iran to cease enrichment — a process that can also produce material for nuclear bombs.
The U.S. and its European allies are currently negotiating with Russia and China over a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would penalize Iran for its refusal to respect an Aug. 31 deadline for a cessation of enrichment.
Russia and China — which have extensive trade with Iran — are rejecting the harsh sanctions that the Western allies want to impose.
Iran showed its ability to enrich uranium last February, when it produced a small batch of low-enriched uranium using a first set of 164 centrifuges at its pilot complex in Natanz. It installed a second cascade of centrifuges in October, but needs tens of thousands to produce fuel for a reactor and more to produce a weapon.
The world has been increasing concerned about Iran's nuclear program since more than three years ago when it was revealed that the country had kept secret for many years certain aspects of its nuclear development.