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Iran To Test Air Defences At Key Nuclear Site

File photo of the Isfahan nuclear site in Iran.
by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) March 06, 2007
Iran is to test an air defence system around a key nuclear plant on Tuesday amid mounting international pressure over its atomic programme, the state news agency IRNA reported. No reason was given for the decision to hold the exercise at the Isfahan uranium conversion facility in central Iran, which is surrounded by anti-aircraft guns to ward off enemy attacks.

"An exercise will be carried out for the aerial defence system installed around the Isfahan nuclear site today (Tuesday) from 10 am (0630 GMT) until 1 pm (0930 GMT)," Isfahan's governor general office said.

It also added that ambulances and other first aid services will carry out "rescue missions" as part of the exercise.

The exercise comes amid growing speculation that the United States has drawn up a plan to attack key Iranian nuclear sites like Isfahan if Tehran continues to refuse to freeze sensitive uranium enrichment activities.

Washington has said it wants to resolve the standoff through diplomacy although it has never ruled out the option of military action. US Vice President Dick Cheney said last month "all options" were still on the table.

The Isfahan plant produces uranium hexafluoride gas -- known as UF6 -- which is then transferred to another facility in the nearby city of Natanz where it is passed through centrifuges to be made into enriched uranium.

The West fears that the sensitive process of uranium enrichment could be diverted to make nuclear weapons although Iran vehemently denies US charges that it wants an atomic bomb.

Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said in a newspaper interview on Tuesday that Iran's armed forces were ready to hit back against any attack.

"In order to ensure the highest degree of security, we will deal with any threat," he told the Iran governmental daily.

"Our defence capabilities should be devised in a way to realise our national aims and be ready to confront national security threats," he added.

earlier related report
Iran to conduct air defense exercises
Tehran, March 6 (RIA Novosti) - Iran will conduct air defense exercises Tuesday in preparation for a possible air strike on its uranium ore conversion center at Isfahan, the IRNA news agency said Tuesday.

The international press has in recent months actively discussed the possibility of U.S. and Israeli air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, but almost all key figures in the Bush administration have repeatedly refuted the existence of any plans to do so.

However, U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney has not ruled out a military strike, saying all options were on the table.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors convened Monday at its Vienna headquarters for a five-day session to discuss the possible suspension of at least 20 aid projects in Iran following a recent report by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, which concluded that Iran has ignored a UN Security Council demand to halt its uranium enrichment program and was in fact seeking to expand it.

Iran has been at the center of international concerns since January 2006 over its nuclear program, which some countries, particularly the United States, suspect is geared toward nuclear weapons development. Tehran has consistently denied the claims, saying it needs nuclear power for civilian purposes.

In response to Iran's unwillingness to give up its nuclear ambitions, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1737 last December, which provided for sanctions against Iran banning activities involving uranium enrichment, chemical reprocessing, heavy water-based projects, and the production of nuclear weapons delivery systems.

The nuclear center dealing with uranium ore conversion in Isfahan has an area of 120,000 square meters (360,000 square feet). Uranium ore is processed into a gaseous hexafluoride of uranium, which is then fed into a centrifuge cascade for enrichment.

Uranium enrichment using centrifuges is conducted at a plant in Natanz.

Ali Larijani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said Tuesday that any military strike against Iran would be ineffective.

"Any military actions against Iran will not only be ineffective, but would make the Iranian nation even more resolute," he said.

Larijani said the Iranian nuclear issue could only be resolved through talks.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have discussed the situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear program by telephone.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Source: RIA Novosti

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US Demands North Korea Come Clean About Uranium Program As Talks Continue
New York (AFP) March 06, 2007
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