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Middle east

Tehran unveils faster enrichment centrifuge

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-04-09

Iran has unveiled a new centrifuge, which it says can enrich uranium six times faster than its previous models. Tehran's defiant announcement comes as Western powers are lobbying for a fresh round of UN sanctions against Iran.

AFP - Iran unveiled a faster centrifuge for enriching uranium on Friday, as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned major powers mulling fresh UN sanctions that it would not give in to threats.

Western governments seized on Iran's defiance as evidence of its "nefarious" intent as they sought consensus at the Security Council on a tough new package of measures to secure compliance with repeated ultimatums for a freeze on uranium enrichment.

Ahmadinejad's comments marking Iran's National Nuclear Day came a day after China agreed to join five other major powers for more talks on a fourth set of UN sanctions against Iran, rowing back on its previous opposition.

Atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran had successfully tested the new centrifuges which are capable of enriching uranium six times faster than its existing ones at a plant in Natanz, south of Tehran.

"The scientists of our country have been able to design a third generation of centrifuges, which successfully went through final mechanical tests," Salehi said.

"These machines would have (isotope) separation capacity... approximately six times faster than the earlier ones, thus increasing the output" of enriched uranium, he added.

Salehi, who said in December that the new centrifuges would go into production by next March, also announced that Iran had discovered new uranium deposits in the central province of Yazd.

Uranium enrichment is the sensitive process that lies at the heart of Western concerns about Iran's nuclear programme. The process can produce the fuel for nuclear reactors but in highly extended form can also make the fissile core of an atomic bomb.

Russia has joined Western governments in backing further UN sanctions but Ahmadinejad vowed that such pressure would have no effect.

"These kinds of actions will make Iranians more determined," the hardliner said.

"For example, four months ago we had no intention of making 20 percent (enriched uranium) fuel. But when they talked of threats, we went ahead."

Ahmadinejad gave instructions on February 7 for Iran to begin enriching uranium to the 20 percent level required for a Tehran medical research reactor after long-running talks on a deal for the major powers to supply the fuel failed to bear fruit.

Western governments slammed the move as a significant step towards the 93 percent level required for making an atomic bomb but Iran again strongly denied any military ambition for its nuclear programme.

"We are against nuclear weapons... we consider nuclear weapons to be inhuman," Ahmadinejad said on Friday.

Both Britain and the United States expressed strong scepticism in the light of Iran's intensification of its efforts to master the nuclear fuel cycle.

"If Iran wants the international community to believe what it says, that it has peaceful intentions with respect to its nuclear programme, then Iran has no need for a third generation, or faster centrifuge," said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.

"We have to conclude that Iran has nefarious intentions in its nuclear programme," he added.

A British Foreign Office spokesman said: "We have deep concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme and its failure to reassure the international community that the programme is purely for peaceful purposes."

London and Washington have stepped up their lobbying at the United Nations for tough new sanctions against Tehran and on Thursday won Beijing's support for further talks on a fresh package.

China, which is a major trade partner of Iran, had previously resisted calls for new sanctions, arguing instead for further diplomacy.

Ahmadinejad again criticised the West on Friday for supporting Israel, which has Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal.

"There are some phoney regimes who have stockpiles, but you are supporting them. Okay, if you are for non-proliferation... disarm yourselves and then your friends," he said.

Date created : 2010-04-09

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