AFP: Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei slammed US President Barack Obama on Sunday for threatening a "nuclear attack" on Iran as Tehran said it will mass produce speedier centrifuges for its controversial uranium enrichment programme. By Hiedeh Farmani
TEHRAN (AFP) — Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei slammed US President Barack Obama on Sunday for threatening a "nuclear attack" on Iran as Tehran said it will mass produce speedier centrifuges for its controversial uranium enrichment programme.
Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran will officially complain to the United Nations regarding Obama's "threats" toward the Islamic republic after 225 lawmakers asked Tehran to take up the issue.
Khamenei, the commander-in-chief of Iran's armed forces and final decision maker on key policy issues, warned a meeting of the military's top brass on Sunday to be more "alert" about such threats.
"He (Obama) has implicitly threatened Iranians with nuclear weapons," state television quoted Khamenei as telling them.
"These comments are very strange and the world should not ignore them because in the 21st century… the head of a state is threatening a nuclear attack," said the spiritual guide of Iran.
"The US president's statements are disgraceful. Such comments harm US and they mean that the US government is wicked and unreliable."
In a policy shift, Washington said on Tuesday it would only use atomic weapons in "extreme circumstances" and would not attack non-nuclear states — but singled out "outliers" Iran and North Korea as exceptions.
After a year of attempting diplomatic initiatives, Obama has in recent weeks ratcheted up pressure for fresh UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, which Washington suspects is masking a weapons drive.
Khamenei dismissed Washington's policy as passing "tornadoes."
"After 30 years, the Iranian nation has shown that it is more resilient and strong and has the ability to stand against any kind of threat," the cleric said.
"Our armed forces must also be alert towards such threats and take their training seriously."
Hardline parliament speaker Ali Larijani also blasted the US policy as "warmongering."
Mehmanparast said Iran would "officially complain" to the United Nations regarding the "threat" from Obama, according to Fars news agency.
The official IRNA news agency said 225 lawmakers had urged the foreign ministry to complain to the UN for what they said was the "American government's threat to international peace."
Iranian atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi said on Saturday that Tehran would in the coming months begin the mass production of centrifuges capable of enriching uranium three times faster than existing systems.
On Friday Iran unveiled a third generation centrifuge it said can enrich uranium six times faster than the IR-1 system currently installed at its plant in the central city of Natanz.
The Natanz facility has a capacity of 60,000 centrifuges, and Iran has been steadily enriching uranium there for years in defiance of three sets of UN sanctions and threat of a fourth.
Uranium enrichment lies at the heart of the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear programme as the material can be used either to power a nuclear reactor or to make an atom bomb.
"Once our appraisal of third generation (centrifuges) is complete and we reach its mass production, the manufacture of the second generation machine will be stopped," Salehi said.
Salehi also dismissed Western claims Iran lacked the know-how to make the fuel pellets required to power a reactor, such as its Tehran research facility.
"They said: you can't make pellets. But now I can say with certainty that we have the technical knowledge to make fuel pellets," Salehi said.
Russia and France are ready to supply fuel for the Tehran reactor if Iran ships its low-enriched uranium abroad, but the UN-drafted deal is deadlocked over differences between the two sides.
Iran has defiantly started producing the fuel itself, but France says Tehran lacks the technology to convert the material into the fuel pellets needed for the facility which makes medical isotopes.
Salehi said Iran was close to mastering the fuel pellet technology and on Friday the Islamic republic unveiled what it claimed was a "virtual" model of the pellets using copper.
"We are going slowly. In the next stage instead of copper as virtual fuel we will use a material close to uranium and in the following stage we will use uranium itself," he said, adding the pellet manufacturing facility was also nearly ready.