Ahmadinejad: Iran Installing 6,000 centrifuges at Natanz plant
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST
Apr. 8, 2008

Iran has begun installing 6,000 new centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, Iranian state television quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying Tuesday.

The US immediately criticized the announcement as an example of Iran's continued defiance of international demands that it suspend uranium enrichment, which can produce fuel for a nuclear reactor or fissile material for a weapon.

"Today's announcement reflects the Iranian leadership's continuing violation of international obligations and refusal to address international concerns," said Gregory Schulte, the US representative to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency.

"This approach has not brought Iran international respect or accolade but rather increasing censure and sanction," added Schulte in a written statement. "Negotiation, not escalation, provides the best path to international respect and regional security."

Iran already has about 3,000 centrifuges operating in Natanz, and the UN has passed three sets of sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Teheran insists its nuclear program is focused on the peaceful production of energy, not the development of weapons as claimed by the US and many of its allies.

"Iran's announcement today adds to the deep level of uncertainty and distrust of Iran's intentions," said a British diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Ahmadinejad made Tuesday's announcement as he toured the Natanz facility in central Iran.

"The president announced the start of the phase of installing 6,000 new centrifuges in Natanz," state television reported.

The television also quoted Ahmadinejad as saying that "other activities have been carried out" in Natanz that he would announce later Tuesday.

The president's trip was scheduled to coincide with Iran's National Day of Nuclear Technology, marking the second anniversary of when Iran first enriched uranium on April 8, 2006.

Ahmadinejad is widely expected to confirm for the first time that Iran has installed hundreds of more sophisticated centrifuges that can enrich uranium faster.

The workhorse of Iran's enrichment program is the P-1 centrifuge, which is run in cascades of 164 machines. But Iranian officials confirmed in February that they had started using the IR-2 centrifuge that can churn out enriched uranium at more than double the rate.

Iranian state television didn't say if the installation of the 6,000 new centrifuges included the older P-1 or the advanced IR-2 centrifuges.

Diplomats in Vienna told The Associated Press on Thursday that Iran has assembled hundreds of advanced centrifuges at Natanz.

One diplomat said more than 300 of the centrifuges have been linked up in two separate units in Iran's underground enrichment plant and a third was being assembled. He said the machines apparently are more advanced than the thousands already running underground, suggesting they could be the sophisticated IR-2 centrifuge.

But a senior diplomat said that while the new work appeared to include advanced centrifuges, they were not IR-2s. He added that it was unclear whether the machines were above or under the surface.

Both diplomats are linked to the IAEA but asked for anonymity because their information was confidential.

A total of 3,000 centrifuges is the commonly accepted figure for a nuclear enrichment program that is past the experimental stage and can be used as a platform for a full industrial-scale program that could churn out enough enriched material for dozens of nuclear weapons.

Iran says it plans to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment that ultimately will involve 54,000 centrifuges.

Also Tuesday, China said it will host a meeting of officials from the United States, Russia and Europe this month in Shanghai to discuss ways to restart talks on the Iranian nuclear issue.

The April 16 meeting will discuss plans to resume the talks and promote a solution to the issue "through diplomatic negotiations," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a regular news conference.

"China always believes that the Iranian nuclear issue should be peacefully resolved through dialogue and negotiations," Jiang said.

"China hopes with the joint efforts of relevant parties the Shanghai meeting will yield positive results," she said.

Officials from the European Union as well as member countries Britain, France and Germany will attend.

Original article: Jerusalem Post
Fair Use Notice