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. Iran highlights pre-freeze nuclear centrifuge work
TEHRAN (AFP) Jul 23, 2005
Iran succeeded in building a "considerable" number of sophisticated centrifuges used for uranium enrichment before suspending the work under a deal with the European Union last year, chief nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani said in comments published Saturday.

"Today, the number of centrifuge machines manufactured and ready to function is considerable," Rowhani told the conservative daily Kayhan without giving a number.

He said Iran had "corrected many failures" in its nuclear work before suspending sensitive activities such as enriching uranium, but that until the November freeze "we continued to manufacture and assemble centrifuge machines."

The International Atomic Energy Agency has identified Iran's centrifuge work as one of its principal outstanding concerns as it investigates US-led accusations that the Islamic regime's nuclear programme is a cover for weapons development.

The UN watchdog's director Mohamed ElBaradei said last month that Iran had yet to provide sufficient information about how far it had got with the work, although the machines at a facility in the town of Natanz have been sealed by IAEA inspectors.

The Islamic regime suspended both its centrifuge work at Natanz and its conversion research in the central city of Isfahan as part of last year's agreement with the European Union.

The EU-3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- have been holding talks to encourage Iran to provide long-term guarantees that its nuclear programme is purely civil in return for various incentives.

Enriched uranium is used to manufacture fuel for nuclear power stations but can be also used to manufacture atomic weapons.

Rowhani said the Isfahan plant had produced a few tons of UF6 or uranium hexafluoride, a chemical compound that is used during the uranium enrichment process, but he gave no further details.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi also said Iran had moved to reassure the Europeans that its Iran's nuclear policy would not change under ultra-conservative new president Mahmood Ahmadinejad who is due to take office next month.

"With the change of government... the attitude of the Islamic republic with regard to the nuclear issue and our strategic objectives will not change and the next government will continue the same policy," Asefi said.

Asefi also said Europe should not use "the language of threats" against Iran, after French President Jacques Chirac warned that the UN Security Council will have to become involved if a deal cannot be hammered out.

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