Iran Nuclear NewsIran claims gains in nuclear program

Iran claims gains in nuclear program

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ImageNew York Times: Iran inaugurated its first nuclear fuel manufacturing plant on Thursday and said it had increased its capability to enrich uranium.

The New York Times

By NAZILA FATHI
Published: April 10, 2009

ImageTEHRAN — Iran inaugurated its first nuclear fuel manufacturing plant on Thursday and said it had increased its capability to enrich uranium. The developments came a day after the United States said it would participate in talks with Iran and other nations over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, helped open the plant in the central city of Isfahan as Iran celebrated National Nuclear Day, begun three years ago when Iran announced for the first time that it had succeeded in enriching uranium. The plant is now producing nuclear fuel for the country’s 40-megawatt research reactor in Arak. The uranium for Arak requires no enrichment before engineers turn it into fuel rods, setting it apart from most reactors.

In February, the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna reported that the Isfahan plant was already making fuel even before the plant’s formal dedication.

The National Nuclear Day activities also brought a new disclosure: Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said Iran had increased the number of its centrifuges to 7,000. In February, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear regulator, put the number at 5,600.

On Thursday, the State Department spokesman, Robert Wood, said Iran’s claims of nuclear advances could be viewed “with skepticism.”

Centrifuges are machines that spin rapidly to enrich uranium. Highly enriched uranium can be used for making nuclear bombs, but Iran says it is enriching uranium to lower levels in order to produce nuclear fuel for civilian use. The United States and several other countries believe Iran is pursuing a clandestine weapons program under the guise of a civilian one, a charge Tehran denies.

Iran has faced three sets of United Nations Security Council sanctions for refusing to halt its enrichment program.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said during a speech broadcast on national television that Iran had achieved its nuclear progress under “the worst political and psychological pressure, even the threat of military invasion.”

“But now the situation has changed in the world,” he said. “Today the whole world knows that Iranian people seek justice and they will pursue their goals despite their enemies’ pressure.”

In what appeared to be a reference to the United States, Mr. Ahmadinejad said that “they” had declared their willingness to hold talks with Iran.

In a policy shift, Washington said Wednesday that it would be willing to meet with five other world powers — Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — and Iran over its nuclear program.

Mr. Ahmadinejad responded that Iran would participate in the meeting if the talks were based on “respect,” but added that countries that had nuclear weapons should first embark on abolishing them.

“Our position is clear,” he said. “Talks should be based on justice, respect for rights and regulations. Justice means both sides are treated equally and their rights are respected.”

An adviser to the president, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, told reporters on Thursday that Iran would study the proposal and respond. “We hope that this proposal means a change of approach to a more realistic attitude,” Agence France-Presse quoted him as saying.

William J. Broad contributed reporting.to this report.

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