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US Defends Gulf Buildup, Calls Iran Actions 'Very Negative'

Iranian test firing missiles during recent war games. Photo courtesy AFP.

Iran eyes at least 3,000 centrifuges at nuclear plant
Tehran (AFP) Jan 15 - Iran is aiming to install at least 3,000 centrifuges at a key nuclear plant, the government spokesman said on Monday, confirming Tehran would make a major announcement on its atomic programme next month. "We are heading towards a production of nuclear fuel that needs 3,000 and even more centrifuges," spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters. "Our aim is to ensure our industrial needs."

"We are going in this direction. We are in the process of completing our programme and this will be announced shortly during the 10 days of Fajr," he said, referring to celebrations for the 28th anniversary of the Islamic revolution from February 1-11. Iran has so far declared the installation of two cascades of 164 centrifuges at the plant in Natanz. The machinery is used to enrich uranium, a highly sensitive process that can be used both to make nuclear energy and a nuclear bomb. Iran insists that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.

by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Jan 15, 2007
Calling Iran's actions in the Middle East "very negative, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday a US military buildup in the Gulf is intended to show Washington's long-term commitment to the region. "We are simply trying to communicate to the region that we are going to be there for a long time," he told reporters after meeting with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in Brussels.

President George W. Bush has ordered a second US aircraft carrier battle group to the Gulf and announced the deployment of a Patriot missile defense battalion to the region to protect allies against potential missile strikes.

Asked whether the buildup was aimed at Iran and signaled a more confrontational stance with its Islamic regime, Gates said the United States was simply reaffirming the strategic importance of the Gulf region.

Noting that he had called for diplomatic engagement with Iran in 1994, he said that since then Iran has gone from doing some constructive things in Iraq and Afghanistan to a wholly negative position.

"None of those conditions apply any longer," he said. "The Iranians believe that they are in a position to press us in many ways. They are doing nothing to be constructive in Iraq at this point."

"In addition they have supported Hezbollah's efforts to create a new conflict in Lebanon, and so the Iranians are acting in a very negative way in many respects," he said.

"My view is when the Iranians are prepared to play a constructive role in dealing with many of these problems, then there might be opportunities for engagement," he said.

Gates also discussed Iraq and Afghanistan with the NATO chief.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Most Britons Want International Deal Banning All Nuclear Weapons
London (AFP) Jan 15, 2007
Some 64 percent of the British public believe that their government should back an international agreement banning all nuclear weapons, according to a new poll released Monday. The YouGov poll was published as the House of Commons Defence Select Committee began studying the government's case for modernizing its Trident nuclear missile deterrent ahead of a full parliamentary vote in March.

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