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. "Skepticism" over talk of Iranian nuclear progress: US
WASHINGTON, April 9 (AFP) Apr 09, 2009
Washington on Thursday met with "skepticism" an announcement by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that major advances have been achieved in Iran's nuclear program.

"I think we certainly could view it with skepticism," said State Department spokesman Robert Wood, commenting on reports that there are some 7,000 centrifuges installed in Iran to enrich uranium.

"Iran has in the past, you know, announced that it is -- it was running a certain number of centrifuges that didn't really pan out with regard to the IAEA's (International Atomic Energy Agency's) own estimate.

"So it's not clear," he said.

Ahmadinejad on Thursday declared the major advances at the opening of a nuclear fuel plant. At the event he announced that two high-capacity centrifuges were being tested.

Speaking at the same event, Iran's atomic chief Gholam Reza Aghazadeh said: "Today in Natanz there are around 7,000 centrifuges installed."

On February 25, he said Iran had 6,000 centrifuges installed at the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, in Isfahan province.

Washington and other nations fear that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at making atomic weapons. Tehran insists its program is for peaceful purposes only.

Ahmadinejad said Thursday Iran has notched up two achievements -- the manufacture of nuclear fuel and "testing of two kinds of new centrifuges having greater capacity (to enrich uranium) than the existing ones."

In its February 19 report, the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, said 3,964 centrifuges were actively enriching uranium in Natanz.

It said another 1,476 were undergoing vacuum or dry run tests without nuclear material, and an additional 125 centrifuges had been installed but remained stationary.

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