Iran Nuclear NewsIran steps up defiance of UN with more centrifuges

Iran steps up defiance of UN with more centrifuges

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Bloomberg: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran is installing 6,000 new advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear facility, a move that steps up the Persian Gulf country’s dismissal of United Nations sanctions. By Jonathan Tirone

April 8 (Bloomberg) — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran is installing 6,000 new advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear facility, a move that steps up the Persian Gulf country’s dismissal of United Nations sanctions.

Natanz already has 3,000 of an older version of the fast- spinning machines that produce uranium 235, a material that can be used to fuel a nuclear power plant or build a bomb. The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency said in February that Iran was testing a faster, more reliable centrifuge. Iran plans to install 50,000 centrifuges at Natanz, Ahmadinejad said in 2006.

“In addition to installation of 6,000 new centrifuges, there are also reports about other new achievements,” Ahmadinejad said on the National Day of Nuclear Technology, marking Iran’s mastery of uranium enrichment in 2006. Details of the nuclear advancements will be announced later today, he said, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

Whether Iran enriches uranium is at the heart of the dispute with the U.S. and some European countries. The UN Security Council voted on March 3 to tighten trade, travel and financial sanctions against Iran for the country’s refusal to suspend nuclear work that might lead to an atomic bomb. It was the third resolution imposing UN sanctions on Iran, all of which the government in Tehran has rejected.

‘Getting Serious’

“The worry is that behind enrichment lies a military program,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters in Paris after Ahmadinejad spoke. Kouchner said tougher sanctions may be needed because the international pressure on Iran has so far “made no progress.”

“He’s now at 6,000 from 3,000 and when we started it was 300. It’s getting serious,” Kouchner said. “If they continue, we’ll have to reinforce the sanctions. But we will continue with dialogue. On that we are not in agreement with the Americans. We want to continue with dialogue but that doesn’t mean there won’t be new sanctions, quite the contrary.”

It’s unlikely that Iran will be able to install 6,000 advanced centrifuges right away, Andreas Persbo, of the London- based Verification Research, Training and Information Center, said.

“Iran is likely to experience significant technical challenges when installing their new centrifuge,” Persbo said in an e-mail. “Their work is likely to take a year, perhaps even longer than that. This type of centrifuge requires a complex uranium feed and withdrawal arrangements.”

Talks in China

While the Bush administration pursues a policy of diplomatic pressure at the UN and unilateral sanctions to weaken Iran’s access to the international banking system, the U.S. hasn’t ruled out military action to halt its nuclear work. The U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980, and there has been no direct contact between them since, except for talks in Baghdad on Iraqi security.

China will host talks on a plan to restart negotiations to resolve the Iran nuclear issue, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jian Yu said today. Officials from the five permanent UN Security Council members — China, the U.K., the U.S., France and Russia — plan to meet along with a German delegation in Shanghai on April 16.

The major powers are considering “all options” to respond to Iran’s pursuit of uranium enrichment in defiance of the UN, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana told the European Parliament foreign affairs committee today in Brussels.

“Today’s announcement shows clear intent to even further violate Security Council requirements,” U.S. IAEA ambassador Gregory Schulte said in a statement. “Negotiation, not escalation, provides the best path to international respect and regional security.”

Fuel Cycle

Ahmadinejad’s “announcement is consistent with the idea that they want to develop full fuel-cycle capability,” British- American Security Information Council senior analyst Paul Ingram said in a telephone interview from New York. “There’s no evidence they’ve cracked the technical challenge” of making the new machines work, he added.

It would require more than 1,000 specially configured centrifuges spinning non-stop more than a year to make the 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of 90 percent enriched uranium needed for a bomb, according to IAEA estimates. The UN agency’s inspectors had verified that Iranian nuclear scientists hadn’t configured their centrifuges for weapons production.

The centrifuges are loaded with milled uranium hexafluoride and spin up to 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) per second to separate the uranium-235 isotope.

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