Iran installing new nuclear centrifuges
Iran on Tuesday said it had started work to install thousands of new centrifuges to enrich uranium at its main nuclear plant.
TEHRAN, April 9, 2008 - Iran on Tuesday said it had started work to install thousands of new centrifuges to enrich uranium at its main nuclear plant, angering world powers who fear Tehran wants to develop an atomic weapon.
"Today, the phase for installing 6,000 new centrifuges at the facility in
Natanz has started," the state broadcasting website quoted President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad as saying at the atomic plant.
His announcement came as Iran marked its "national day of nuclear
technology" on the second anniversary of its first production of uranium
sufficiently enriched to make atomic fuel.
Iran has already installed around 3,000 P1 centrifuges at an underground
enrichment facility at Natanz, in central Iran, according to the latest report
by the UN nuclear watchdog, and tripling this number would mark a major
expansion of its nuclear capacities.
The West fears Iran could use enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon,
and Tehran's refusal to suspend the process has been punished with three sets
of UN Security Council sanctions and US pressure on its banking system.
World powers responded swiftly and with concern to Ahmadinejad's latest
Gregory Schulte, the US ambassador to the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), said "today's announcement reflects the Iranian leadership's
continuing violation of international obligations and refusal to address
The British foreign office said that by announcing the installation of new
centrifuges Iran had "chosen to ignore the will of the international community.
"This is despite the fact that Iran's enrichment programme has no apparent
civilian purpose, and shows that Iran is making no effort to restore
international confidence in its intentions," it said.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the international community
must consider "reinforced" sanctions if Iran does not respond to concerns
about its nuclear programme.
Ahmadinejad also inspected a "new generation" of centrifuges being built at
an above-ground research facility at the plant, the official IRNA news agency
These are Iran's version of the more efficient P2 centrifuges -- the IR-2
-- which can enrich uranium considerably faster than the standard P1s. The
reports did not say how many of these centrifuges Iran has built.
Ahmadinejad said he would announce more "good news" at a major ceremony at
1600 GMT at the headquarters of Iranian state broadcasting in Tehran alongside
the head of Iran's atomic energy organisation Gholam Reza Aghazadeh.
State television was repeatedly playing patriotic music while children at
schools around the country chanted the familiar mantra of "nuclear energy is
our natural right."
Tehran has repeatedly insisted that it has no intention of making
concessions over calls for it to freeze enrichment, leading to deadlock in the
standoff with the international community.
Iran insists that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and solely
aimed at generating energy for a growing population whose supply of fossil
fuels will eventually run out.
The United States has never ruled out military action to bring Tehran to
heel, and Iran's arch enemy Israel has expressed alarm about the nuclear
drive, especially after Ahmadinejad predicted the Jewish state is doomed to
Underlining the tensions, Israel's National Infrastructure Minister
Benjamin Ben-Eliezer warned on Monday that Israel would respond to any Iranian
attack by destroying the "Iranian nation."
The Chinese foreign ministry said on Tuesday that envoys from world powers
would meet in Shanghai on April 16 to discuss how to end the standoff over the
Iranian nuclear programme.
But Iran is also believed to have experienced difficulties in utilising its
existing centrifuges to full capacity.
Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, has said it was
"natural in this kind of industry that there are ups and downs once in a
In a warning to Ahmadinejad's domestic rivals, the semi-official Fars news
agency reported that Iran had handed former nuclear negotiator Hossein
Moussavian a two-year suspended jail sentence for "harming national security."
Moussavian was a leading nuclear negotiator in the moderate team that made
a deal with EU countries to temporarily suspend enrichment during the
presidency of reformist Mohammad Khatami until 2005.