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Iran starts to install 6,000 centrifuges

Tehran, April 8, 2008

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday Iran had started to install 6,000 advanced centrifuges in its underground Natanz uranium enrichment facility, state media reported.

Diplomats in Vienna last week told Reuters Tehran was installing advanced enrichment centrifuges at Natanz in central Iran, accelerating activity that could give the Islamic state the means to make atom bombs in future if it chose to.

"President Ahmadinejad has announced the start of the installation of 6,000 new centrifuges at Natanz," said state television.

The announcement is a fresh snub to the UN Security Council, which since late 2006 has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Tehran for refusing to halt enrichment work.

Iran says the sanctions, targeting its nuclear and military sectors as well as its financial transactions with the outside world, has not harmed the Islamic state.

Enriched uranium can be used as fuel in nuclear power plants or, if refined much more, explosive material for weapons.

Centrifuges are machines that can spin compounds of uranium at supersonic speed to separate out and concentrate the most radioactive isotope of the element.

Analysts believe Iran aims to gradually replace its start-up "P-1" centrifuge with "a new generation" it has adapted from a "P-2" design, obtained via black markets from the West and able to enrich uranium 2-3 times faster than its older counterpart.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany plan to meet in April to discuss whether to sweeten a 2006 offer incentives to pursuade Iran to curb its nuclear program, US officials said on Monday.

Tehran has so far rejected any suggestion that it halt or limit its nuclear work in exchange for trade and other incentives, and says it will only negotiate with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. - Reuters




Tags: Iran | Nuclear | centrifuges |

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