Iran Seeks Import Cuts In Response To Sanctions

Iran's Central Bank governor is calling for a cut in imports to boost domestic production as the country grapples with tougher international sanctions over its nuclear program. Four rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions and separate penalties imposed by the United States and its European allies have hit Iran's economy as the country battles inflation and unemployment but have failed to persuade the country to halt a key part of its nuclear program. Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani said the nation should limit imports to "necessary goods" to help lift domestic production and reduce the amount of hard currency exiting the country, the state-run daily newspaper Iran reported Tuesday. "Imports should be reduced," Bahmani was quoted as saying. "In other words, we should not allow the import of every sort of product." The international pressure has failed to deter Iran, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday the country would continue enriching uranium, the part of Iran's nuclear program that is of central concern to the West. Enrichment at low levels is used to make fuel for nuclear power plants, but at higher levels it can create weapons grade material — giving Iran a possible pathway to making nuclear warheads. Tehran denies U.S. accusations that it is concealing such an aim under the cover of a civilian program and says it only wants to enrich uranium to fuel power plants and a medical research reactor. With Russian help, Iran began loading fuel into its first nuclear power plant in the southern city of Bushehr on Aug. 21 after years of delays. Mehmanparast, the ministry spokesman, said the notion that Iran no longer needs to enrich uranium after loading the Bushehr plant with fuel provided by Russia was off base. "When nuclear facilities start working in a country, and are to be expanded, there is definitely a need for (more) enrichment," he said, adding that Iran wants to raise nuclear power generation to 20,000 megawatts — 20 times