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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran claims tests of new advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges

RIA Novosti

09/04/2008 14:51 TEHRAN, April 9 (RIA Novosti) - Iran has begun tests of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges, a deputy head of the Islamic Republic's Atomic Energy Organization said on Wednesday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced tests on unspecified nuclear equipment on Tuesday - Nuclear Technology Day in Iran - also adding that the country had started to install another 6,000 'ordinary' uranium enrichment centrifuges at its underground facility in Natanz.

"These are new-generation centrifuges," Mohammad Saidi said on Wednesday, referring to the advanced equipment. "Their uranium enrichment capabilities are five times greater than those of the centrifuges being used [in Iran] now."

Saidi said the tests would be completed in the next two months.

Iran currently uses around 3,000 'P-1' centrifuges, according to the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, that are prone to breakdown when working at high speed for long periods.

The announcements apparently signal that Iran has no interest in taking steps to avoid a third set of UN Security Council sanctions over its defiance to halt uranium enrichment, used both in weapons and electricity production. A resolution on a third set of sanctions was adopted in late February and will come into force when a 90-day deadline expires.

Tehran has repeatedly rejected international demands to halt uranium enrichment, insisting it needs the process to generate electricity.

Another Iranian nuclear official announced on Wednesday that the country would build another uranium processing plant by next March.

"A second plant will be launched in the city of Ardakan, in the Yazd Province," Hossein Fagihian from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said.

He said the plant would fully meet Iran's need for yellowcake, a uranium concentrate which is an intermediate step in the processing of uranium ores.

The country's nuclear ambitions have contributed to tensions with Washington, with U.S. President George Bush refusing late last year to rule out military action against Tehran.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that the six countries mediating in the nuclear dispute with Iran - the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany - were preparing new incentives to convince Tehran to halt its uranium program.

Deputy foreign ministers of the Iran Six will gather in Shanghai on April 16 to discuss plans to resume nuclear talks with the Islamic Republic.

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