Iran Declares New Progress In Nuclear Drive
Friday, 10 April 2009

Iran declared fresh progress in its nuclear program Thursday, inaugurating its first nuclear fuel production plant and announcing it had tested more advanced equipment for enriching uranium.

The moves, announced a day after the United States and five other powers said they would invite Tehran for talks on in its nuclear program, are likely to revive Western concerns that the Islamic Republic aims to develop nuclear bombs under the cover of a civilian program.

Tehran says it only aims to generate electricity so that it can export more of its oil.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated the fuel manufacturing plant near Isfahan in central Iran, a development which one leading politician said meant the Islamic Republic had mastered all stages of nuclear fuel production.

A manager at the fuel manufacturing plant near Isfahan in central Iran, Vajihollah Asadi, said it was "100 percent" Iranian and that it would produce fuel for Iran's Arak heavy water reactor.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said Iran was now running 7,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges, and had obtained technology to produce more "accurate centrifuges."

In February, Iran had said it was running 6,000 centrifuges.

Ahmadinejad also said Thursday Iran has tested two new types of uranium enrichment centrifuges with a capacity "a few times higher than the existing centrifuges" currently in use.

Western powers have demanded that Tehran halts sensitive enrichment activity, which can be used to in the manufacture of nuclear bombs as well as power generation.

But the head of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, told reporters in Isfahan: "Today Iran practically proved that its (nuclear) fuel cycle has been completed and naturally suspension of uranium enrichment cannot be discussed with Iran."


The United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain said Wednesday they would ask European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to invite Tehran to a meeting to find "a diplomatic solution to this critical issue."

It marked a policy reversal in Washington under new President Barack Obama, after his predecessor George W. Bush spearheaded a drive to isolate Iran over work the West suspects is aimed at making bombs. Tehran denies the charge.

China, a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council and a close energy and trade partner with Iran, said it welcomed signs of renewed engagement and urged Tehran and other powers to pursue contacts aimed at defusing the long-running row.

Ahmadinejad said Iran was ready for talks with the West if those talks were based on "justice and respect."

Foreign nuclear analysts believe Tehran has yet to prove it has mastered industrial-scale enrichment of uranium, the key to making fuel in large, usable quantities and the most technically difficult aspect of producing nuclear power.


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