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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia nuclear chief doubts industrial uranium production in Iran

RIA Novosti

12/04/2007 13:37 TOKYO, April 12 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's top nuclear official said his federal nuclear power agency Rosatom has doubts that Iran has begun producing uranium on an industrial scale.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday that his country had attained an industrial level of nuclear fuel production. Following his statement, the Iranian information agency IRNA quoted Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh as saying that the Islamic Republic would increase the number of centrifuges at a nuclear center in central Iran to 50,000.

"We are concerned about the situation, and Iran has made statements it is increasing the amount of centrifuges," Sergei Kiriyenko said during his visit to Japan. "Rosatom experts say it cannot be at an industrial level."

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.

Kiriyenko said that industrial production of uranium did not only need the necessary number of centrifuges to be installed, but they also need to be adjusted to work properly, which was a complicated process.

"In any case, we take Iran's statements and actions seriously enough," Kiriyenko said.

He said it was necessary to expect the assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency, a UN nuclear watchdog, which has sent its inspectors to the Natanz nuclear center.

The official reiterated that the issue of Iran's nuclear program was entirely within the jurisdiction of the UN Security Council and that Russia's position remains unchanged.

"We state categorically that Iran's developing of nuclear weapons is unacceptable, but we advocate a diplomatic solution to the problem," he said.

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

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

The new resolution freezes the 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.

But President Ahmadinejad reiterated that Iran is pursuing its program exclusively for peaceful ends, in line with the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and would continue implementing it without succumbing to international pressure.

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