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Iran says more than 5,000 centrifuges in operation

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) Nov 26, 2008
Iran now has more than 5,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges in operation, as it pushes ahead with its controversial nuclear programme, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation chief said on Wednesday.

"At this stage, more than 5,000 centrifuges are in operation," said Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, quoted by the state news agency IRNA.

The figure corresponds to the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which said last week that Iran has 3,820 centrifuges in operation and another 2,132 being installed or tested.

Iran has stockpiled approximately 630 kilograms (1,389 pounds) of low-enriched uranium, from the 3,800 centrifuges currently in operation, according to the IAEA.

Estimates vary but the UN watchdog has said that about 1,700 kilograms of LEU would be needed for conversion into high-enriched uranium for use in an atom bomb, although other estimates put the figure as low as 700 kilograms.

At the end of August, Iran said it was operating about 4,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges and installing several thousand more.

Iran is already under three sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to freeze enrichment.

Western powers, led by the United States, suspect the nuclear programme is a cover for making the bomb.

Iran, a leading OPEC oil producer, denies it is seeking nuclear weapons and insists its programme is designed to provide energy for its growing population when its reserves of fossil fuels run out.

Under the enrichment process being carried out at Natanz, a huge underground complex in central Iran, low-grade uranium is refined into fuel that can power reactors, or at highly enriched levels, into weapons-grade material.

Last week, Iran's IAEA ambassador, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told reporters at the Vienna-based organisation that all of the stockpiled LEU is under IAEA safeguards and cannot be diverted to make a bomb.

At Natanz, there is a "closed circuit and all the material will go in a closed capsule or large container and that container is sealed to the wall by agency's (IAEA's) seals, and the camera is watching," he said.

"As soon as anyone wants to touch the seals, the next second the world would know. This is the reality on the ground."

Iranian officials have repeatedly said they have no intention of freezing enrichment and that as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the right to make its own nuclear fuel.

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US has never advised Israel against Iran strike: Olmert
Washington (AFP) Nov 25, 2008
The United States has not pressured Israel to rule out military action in order to halt Iran's nuclear program, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday after talks with President George W. Bush.







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