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Iran Wants Sixty Thousand Centrifuges In Nuclear Drive

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) Nov 14, 2006
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defiantly announced Tuesday the ultimate aim of Iran's atomic drive was to install tens of thousands of uranium-enriching centrifuges to produce nuclear fuel. Despite the threat of UN sanctions over Tehran's refusal to hold back its nuclear programme, Ahmadinejad said that the long-term target of Iran should be to install 60,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium.

Iran has said it is looking to install 3,000 centrifuges by March 2007, in itself a massive step from the two cascades of 164 centrifuges apiece it has currently at its Natanz plant to enrich uranium on a research scale.

"We want to produce nuclear fuel and eventually we should go for 60,000 centrifuges. We should continue along this path. We are at the beginning of the wave," Ahmadinejad told a news conference.

His comments reaffirmed Iran's insistence that it wants to produce its own nuclear fuel on Iranian soil and will not renounce its right to uranium enrichment, a process the West fears could be diverted to make a nuclear bomb.

Experts say that 50,000 centrifuges would normally be sufficient to produce 20 kilos (44 pounds) of weapons grade uranium in under a month, but Iran vehemently denies it wants the bomb.

The remarks came as the United States and European powers seek to find agreement for a UN draft resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran over its failure to suspend uranium enrichment.

Enrichment is carried out in lines of centrifuges called cascades and is used to make the fuel for civilian nuclear reactors. But in highly enriched form, the uranium can be used to make a nuclear bomb.

Building tens of thousands of centrifuges would take Iran's enrichment programme from its current research level to one where it could produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale.

World powers wanted Iran to suspend enrichment as a prelude to full-scale negotiations over its atomic programme, a demand that has been repeatedly rejected by Iran.

"The question of a suspension has now been passed," Ahmadinejad said.

But the president shrugged off the prospect of sanctions. "If they put in place sanctions a new financial order will be put in place."

Iran's arch-enemy the United States accuses it of seeking nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists its atomic programme is solely aimed at generating energy.

Amid mounting calls in the United States for contacts with Iran to stabilise neighbouring Iraq, Ahmadinejad said talks with Washington could only take place if the United States changed its "attitude" towards Iran.

"We would talk with the US government but on certain conditions, on the condition that it corrects its attitude," the president said, reaffirming his traditional stance on talks with the United States.

"And at that moment, we will talk with them as we talk with the others," he said.

The president confidently announced he would soon send a personal message to Americans and boasted to suspicious world powers that there now was no holding back the Iranian nuclear programme.

"I will soon send a message to the American people. I am in the process of preparing it," Ahmadinejad said.

"The message will elaborate upon the viewpoints of the Iranian nation, because many Americans asked me for it."

Ahmadinejad has already made message-writing part of his personal style, firing off missives to US President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that were greeted with frigidity by both parties.

The president gave no further details of the contents of the latest missive.

"The great powers have tried to prevent our people from achieving their rights in nuclear material," he said.

"This year I hope will be able to have the great celebration of the nuclearisation of Iran," he added. "We need time before we can arrive at a stage where we can make nuclear fuel for a power station. And yes, it will take time."

earlier related report
Iran pressing ahead with enrichment - IAEA
UN nuclear inspectors have found new traces of plutonium, a possible weapons material, in Iran, the UN atomic agency said in a confidential report that was unable to confirm that Tehran's nuclear program is peaceful.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, obtained by AFP, also detailed how Iran is pressing ahead with research levels of uranium enrichment -- a process the West fears could be diverted to make a nuclear bomb.

Despite the threat of UN sanctions over Tehran's refusal to hold back its nuclear program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Tuesday that Iran eventually planned to install tens of thousands of uranium-enriching centrifuges to produce nuclear fuel.

The IAEA report said the agency is investigating traces of plutonium found in containers at a waste storage site at Karaj in Iran.

Iran has been "requested to provide further clarification" of highly enriched uranium as well as plutonium particles found at Karaj and responded to this request on Tuesday, the report said.

A senior UN official told reporters that the Iranian response had come too late to be analyzed before an IAEA meeting next week in Vienna that will review the Iranian nuclear program.

The official said an overall problem remains in getting full and timely Iranian cooperation with the IAEA investigation into its atomic program that began in February 2003.

Iran needs "to do more" to clear up "the ambiguities particular to some of the alleged military aspects of the program," the official said.

According to the report, progress in this regard "is a prerequisite for the agency to be able to confirm the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme."

Ahamdinejad announced Tuesday that the ultimate aim of Iran's atomic drive was to install some 60,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges to produce nuclear fuel.

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormak said the announcement was a "cold jolt" to doubters of Tehran's nuclear arms ambitions.

And at the United Nations, US Ambassador John Bolton said: "President Ahmadinejad's statements and the draft IAEA report both demonstrate the urgency for the Security Council to act on Iran. Sanctions are obviously the only means to get Iran's attention."

Ambassadors from Germany and the UN Security Council's permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- are currently deadlocked in talks to agree on a European draft resolution urging nuclear and ballistic missile-related sanctions against Iran.

The draft put forward by Britain, France and Germany includes travel bans and financial restrictions on Iranian scientists working on the nuclear and missile programs.

It is viewed as too tough and as counter-productive by Russia and China, which both maintain close energy and trade ties with Tehran while Washington is pushing for even tougher sanctions.

Iran has installed a new cascade, or production line, of centrifuges at its uranium enrichment facility in Natanz in the center of the country, and now has two cascades of 164 centrifuges each running, as well as several smaller cascades.

Iran from August 13 to November 2 fed "a total of approximately 34 kilograms" of feedstock uranium gas into centrifuges in Natanz, producing a small amount of uranium enriched to low levels, the report said.

It did not detail how much uranium was produced but said enrichment levels seemed to be below five percent, nowhere near the 90 percent level needed to make atom bombs.

The research uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, where Iran wants eventually to build a large-scale facility with over 50,000 centrifuges, is monitored by the IAEA but the agency is also investigating possibly military-related nuclear work by Iran elsewhere.

One such site was a physics laboratory at Lavizan in Tehran that was razed in 2004 before IAEA inspectors could visit.

"Iran has not yet responded to the agency's long outstanding requests for clarification concerning and access to carry out further environmental sampling of equipment and materials related to the Physics Research Centre (PHRC) nor has Iran provided the agency with access to interview... (a) former head of the PHRC," the report said.

The agency is also waiting for information on high explosives testing and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle, the report said, adding that Iran had not provided "sufficient clarification" on experiments designed to separate out plutonium.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links
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Iran Aims To Boost Uranium Enrichment Should Be Cold Jolt To Doubters
Washington (AFP) Nov 14, 2006
Iran's announced plans to install tens of thousands of uranium-enriching centrifuges should be a "cold jolt" to doubters of Tehran's nuclear arms ambitions, a senior US official said Tuesday. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a news conference Tuesday that Iran's long-term target should be to install 60,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium, insisting the fuel is for civilian energy production only.

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