MOSCOW -- Iran announced an enlargement of its uranium production and claimed other atomic energy advances Tuesday, striking a defiant tone in the aftermath of diplomatic talks this past weekend in Kazakhstan that ended in an impasse.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who proclaimed the expansions in a speech, coupled them with harsh criticism of what he called "hegemonic powers" that have sought to damage Iran's dignity through pressures -- a clear reference to economic sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union over the nuclear dispute.
"Iran has already become a nuclear country, and no one is capable of stealing this title," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Mr. Ahmadinejad as saying at a ceremony held to commemorate National Nuclear Technology Day, a holiday he created in 2006, during his first term in office, to exalt Iran's nuclear energy achievements. "They caused restrictions and issued threats, thinking that the Iranian nation cannot achieve nuclear energy," he was quoted as saying. "The best way for you is to cooperate with Iran."
While such rhetoric is hardly out of character, it underscored just how firmly dug-in Iran remains despite the international sanctions that have a stranglehold on its economy and highlighted the huge divide that exists between Iran and the world powers demanding that it curb its nuclear program.
The triumphal tone of Mr. Ahmadinejad's announcements was undercut somewhat by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that jolted the countryside in southern Iran near Bushehr, site of its only nuclear power plant.
"No damage was done to Bushehr power plant," Bushehr provincial Gov. Fereidoun Hasanvand told state TV, according to The Associated Press. He said 37 people had died so far, and 850 were injured. Water and electricity were cut to many residents, said Ebrahim Darvishi, governor of the worst-hit district, Shonbeh.
The nuclear plant's chief, Mahmoud Jafari, confirmed the site's condition to the semi-official Mehr news agency, saying it is resistant to quakes of as much as magnitude 8, the AP said.
The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency said, based on its analysis of the quake, it was not seeking additional information.
Iran has defied United Nations Security Council demands for a halt to its uranium enrichment until questions about its nuclear intentions are answered. Iran denies that its intent is to build a nuclear weapon, but the bigger powers suspect otherwise.
Mr. Ahmadinejad said Iran had opened two uranium extraction mines in the central province of Yazd and a factory in the same area to manufacture yellowcake, a form of semi-refined uranium that can be further processed into nuclear fuel. He also announced that Iranian nuclear scientists had created five new medicines and a homemade industrial electron accelerator.
As Israel and other critics who believe that the Iranians are merely stalling for time to develop a nuclear weapon renewed their calls for more decisive action, negotiators for the big powers planned to confer with senior officials in London, where the Group of 8 foreign ministers are meeting this week.
The Associated Press contributed.