AFP: President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad defiantly announced Tuesday the ultimate aim of Iran’s atomic drive was to install tens of thousands of uranium-enriching centrifuges to produce nuclear fuel. by Stuart Williams
TEHRAN, Nov 14, 2006 (AFP) – President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad defiantly announced Tuesday the ultimate aim of Iran’s atomic drive was to install tens of thousands of uranium-enriching centrifuges to produce nuclear fuel.
Despite the threat of UN sanctions over Tehran’s refusal to hold back its nuclear programme, Ahmadinejad said that the long-term target of Iran should be to install 60,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium.
Iran has said it is looking to install 3,000 centrifuges by March 2007, in itself a massive step from the two cascades of 164 centrifuges apiece it has currently at its Natanz plant to enrich uranium on a research scale.
“We want to produce nuclear fuel and eventually we should go for 60,000 centrifuges. We should continue along this path. We are at the beginning of the wave,” Ahmadinejad told a news conference.
His comments reaffirmed Iran’s insistence that it wants to produce its own nuclear fuel on Iranian soil and will not renounce its right to uranium enrichment, a process the West fears could be diverted to make a nuclear bomb.
Experts say that 50,000 centrifuges would normally be sufficient to produce 20 kilos (44 pounds) of weapons grade uranium in under a month, but Iran vehemently denies it wants the bomb.
The remarks came as the United States and European powers seek to find agreement for a UN draft resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran over its failure to suspend uranium enrichment.
Enrichment is carried out in lines of centrifuges called cascades and is used to make the fuel for civilian nuclear reactors. But in highly enriched form, the uranium can be used to make a nuclear bomb.
Building tens of thousands of centrifuges would take Iran’s enrichment programme from its current research level to one where it could produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale.
World powers wanted Iran to suspend enrichment as a prelude to full-scale negotiations over its atomic programme, a demand that has been repeatedly rejected by Iran.
“The question of a suspension has now been passed,” Ahmadinejad said.
But the president shrugged off the prospect of sanctions. “If they put in place sanctions a new financial order will be put in place.”
Iran’s arch-enemy the United States accuses it of seeking nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists its atomic programme is solely aimed at generating energy.
Amid mounting calls in the United States for contacts with Iran to stabilise neighbouring Iraq, Ahmadinejad said talks with Washington could only take place if the United States changed its “attitude” towards Iran.
“We would talk with the US government but on certain conditions, on the condition that it corrects its attitude,” the president said, reaffirming his traditional stance on talks with the United States.
“And at that moment, we will talk with them as we talk with the others,” he said.
The president confidently announced he would soon send a personal message to Americans and boasted to suspicious world powers that there now was no holding back the Iranian nuclear programme.
“I will soon send a message to the American people. I am in the process of preparing it,” Ahmadinejad said.
“The message will elaborate upon the viewpoints of the Iranian nation, because many Americans asked me for it.”
Ahmadinejad has already made message-writing part of his personal style, firing off missives to US President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that were greeted with frigidity by both parties.
The president gave no further details of the contents of the latest missive.
“The great powers have tried to prevent our people from achieving their rights in nuclear material,” he said.
“This year I hope will be able to have the great celebration of the nuclearisation of Iran,” he added. “We need time before we can arrive at a stage where we can make nuclear fuel for a power station. And yes, it will take time.”