Iran Nuclear NewsUsing a 2nd network, Iran raises enrichment ability

Using a 2nd network, Iran raises enrichment ability


New York Times: Iran has begun to enrich uranium in a second network of centrifuges, an Iranian local news agency reported Friday, in defiance of a United Nations Security Council demand that it halt its nuclear program. The New York Times

Published: October 28, 2006

TEHRAN, Oct. 27 — Iran has begun to enrich uranium in a second network of centrifuges, an Iranian local news agency reported Friday, in defiance of a United Nations Security Council demand that it halt its nuclear program.

ISNA Student News Agency quoted an “informed source” as saying that Iran installed a second cascade of 164 centrifuges two weeks ago and successfully injected gas into it last week, theoretically doubling its enrichment capacity.

“We now have the product of the second cascade,” the unidentified speaker was quoted as saying.

International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors know of this activity, he said.

In Washington, President Bush said he was aware of “speculation” that Iran has started enriching uranium in a second network. “Whether they doubled it or not, the idea of Iran having a nuclear weapon is unacceptable,” Mr. Bush said.

But Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, said it was too early to speak about Iran being able to produce weapons-grade uranium. “These are empty centrifuges,” he told the Itar-Tass news agency. “You can’t produce anything with them, so to speak about enriching uranium is premature.”

The announcement was widely expected. On Monday, the head of the I.A.E.A., Mohamed ElBaradei, said that “based on our most recent inspections, the second centrifuge cascade is in place and ready to go.”

As Iran was reporting the doubling of its enrichment capacity, the five permanent members of the Council — the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia — and Germany were discussing a draft resolution to impose sanctions on Iran for its refusal to comply with their earlier demand that it stop enrichment.

The draft resolution would reportedly bar Iranian students from studying nuclear physics at foreign universities, prohibit technical or financial assistance that could benefit the nuclear program and impose a visa ban on any Iranians involved in nuclear activities.

A senior Western diplomat in Tehran said Iran went ahead after seeing the limited sanctions imposed on North Korea after its nuclear test this month. “They were reasonably reassured that if North Korea can live with the sanctions, they can do better,” said the diplomat, who refused to be identified. “They think if they give in now, it is a sign of weakness and the West will ask for more.”

Iran insists that its program is for peaceful purposes, and that as a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty it has the legal right to enrich uranium to produce its own reactor fuel. The United States says Iran, a major oil exporter, has no need for a peaceful nuclear program and is merely using it as a cover for an effort to produce nuclear weapons.

Iran, which already had one cascade of 164 centrifuges in operation, has said repeatedly that it plans to increase the number of centrifuges in operation to 3,000 by the end of this year. In a separate interview, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said Tehran was still willing to resolve its nuclear issue through negotiations. But he also issued a veiled threat, saying Europeans “should pay the price” if they choose a different path, ISNA reported. He did not elaborate, but it seemed that he was referring to sanctions.

“If Europeans think they can pursue a radical approach toward Iran and negotiate with us on the side as well, they should know that Iranians are not naïve people,” he added.

He also rejected comments made by the foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, who said last week that Iran might consider suspending its program during negotiations. “I do not approve this view,” he said. “I am in charge of nuclear issues and I do not think the news was accurate.”

Members of the Security Council reacted to the announcement immediately, Reuters reported.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman in France, Jean-Baptiste Mattéi, said the report increased the international community’s worries about the growth of Iran’s capacity to produce fissile material.

“The priority is to move toward the negotiation of a Security Council resolution,” Mr. Mattéi told reporters in Paris in response to the news.

A British Foreign Office spokesman said it was a matter for the I.A.E.A., the United Nations nuclear agency, to investigate.

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