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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran uranium enrichment on industrial scale unconfirmed - Moscow

RIA Novosti

10/04/2007 14:26 MOSCOW, April 10 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow is unable to confirm whether Iran has started uranium enrichment on an industrial scale, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a briefing in Moscow Tuesday.

During celebrations to honor the national day of nuclear technology in the Islamic Republic Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that the country had started nuclear fuel production on an industrial level and would not succumb to international demands to halt its nuclear program.

Lavrov said, "We have heard the Iranian president's statements. We take Iran's nuclear program seriously and would like to base [our assumptions] on facts and not on emotional political gestures, which have been frequent on various sides."

He said Moscow among other things was maintaining contact with experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, to specify the situation.

"We cannot confirm as yet that practical [uranium] enrichment has started at new cascades [of centrifuges]," the minister said.

The minister cited IAEA as saying that the agency had completed coordinating the procedure with Tehran for conducting random inspections at the Natanz nuclear enrichment center in central Iran.

Iranian information agency IRNA quoted Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who is also head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization, as saying Tuesday that the country was planning to install as many as 50,000 centrifuges in the Natanz center, instead of the earlier reported 3,000.

Tensions continue to grow over the Iranian nuclear program as some Western countries, particularly the U.S., suspect Tehran is pursuing a covert weapons program since it resumed uranium enrichment in January 2006. But Tehran has consistently claimed it needs nuclear power for civilian power generation and is fully entitled to its own nuclear program in line with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran is signatory to and which authorizes peaceful nuclear research.

The UN Security Council voted unanimously March 24 to impose new sanctions against the Islamic Republic for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

The resolution was passed following Tehran's refusal to comply with the previous resolution adopted December 23, 2006.

The new resolution freezes foreign accounts of 13 companies and 15 individuals involved in uranium enrichment and missile development projects, imposes visa restrictions and bans arms exports from Iran. It also threatens new sanctions if Iran does not comply with the resolution within 60 days, and urges the Islamic Republic to return to negotiations.

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