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Ahmadinejad Says Iran Ready For 'Final Nuclear Step'

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) Nov 16, 2006
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday said Iran was ready to take the "final step" in its nuclear programme as world powers remained deadlocked over imposing UN sanctions. "The enemies of the Iranian people must know that the Iranian people have taken their decision and will resist until the end," the semi-official Mehr agency quoted him as saying in a speech in Baneh in Kordestan province.

"In the nuclear case, we are ready to take the final step and I hope that by the end of the year (Iranian year to March 2007) we will be able to hold the great celebration of Iran's nuclear right," he said.

Ahmadinejad, who has made a string of similar comments in recent days, did not specify where the step would take Iran's nuclear programme.

However Iranian officials have repeatedly said that the short-term goal of Iran's nuclear programme is to install some 3,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium at its plant in Natanz by March 2007.

This would in itself represent a massive step from the two cascades of 164 centrifuges apiece it currently has at its Natanz plant to enrich uranium on a research scale.

Ahmadinejad said earlier this week that Iran wanted ultimately to have 60,000 centrifuges working in Natanz, easily enough to enrich uranium to make nuclear fuel on an industrial scale.

"Today we are victorious in nuclear and thanks to God we will accomplish the final step to completely master nuclear energy," he added in a later speech in the town of Saghez.

Enrichment is carried out in lines of centrifuges called cascades and is used to make the fuel for civilian nuclear reactors but in highly extended form can make the fissile core of a nuclear bomb.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful and that it has every right to the full nuclear fuel cycle, rejecting US accusations that its civilian energy drive masks a programme to make an atomic weapon.

The top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said in Tehran that the Islamic republic was sticking to its goal of installing 3,000 centrifuges by March 2007.

"We are at a research level, which must be completed, it is important that we master this technology and we want to develop our activities in this area of research," he told reporters.

The United States is leading a drive to impose UN sanctions against Iran over its failure to suspend uranium enrichment.

But the moves have hit stalemate amid opposition from China and Russia to a European-proposed draft resolution urging nuclear industry and ballistic missile-related sanctions against Iran.

US national security advisor Stephen Hadley however dismissed the differences between the world powers as mere "sausage making" and said they were discussing what aspects should be saved for a further resolution.

"These are largely tactical considerations, but the strategy, I think, there is agreement on," he told reporters aboard Air Force One.

"It's a little bit like sausage making -- it's not pretty, and a lot of it spills out into the public," he said. "But I think the international community has held together on this issue and I think we will again."

US President George W. Bush, on his way to a summit in Asia, discussed the Iran nuclear crisis with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a brief stopover in Moscow.

Meanwhile, UN ambassadors from the world powers discussed the European-proposed draft for the sixth time on Wednesday but US ambassador John Bolton admitted afterwards that "we did not make any progress."

"We'll meet again in the near future," said Bolton, without saying exactly when.

Israel, which Iran does not recognise, has been looking for an even tougher line from Washington against Iran's nuclear ambitions and on Thursday Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres slammed Ahmadinejad as a "Persian version of Hitler".

Israeli officials have not ruled out a preemptive military strike against Iran and Iranian Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar reaffirmed Tehran's warning of a "destructive" response to such a move.

"In the case of any unwise move by the fake regime of Israel, Iran's response will be so destructive and quick that this regime will regret its move for ever," he said according to the Fars news agency.

Israel is widely believed to be the only country in the Middle East to have a nuclear arsenal, estimated at 200 warheads, although it has never formally confirmed or denied it holds such weapons.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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