Iran unveils nuclear progress as rhetoric escalates with Israel

President Ahmadinejad claims success in manufacturing fuel rods and advanced centrifuges day after Bangkok bombings

Iran has stepped up its defiance against the west over Tehran’s nuclear programme, claiming to have built faster uranium enrichment centrifuges and have loaded domestically made fuel plates into a reactor.

The move comes amid an escalation of the rhetoric between Iran and Israel over allegations made by officials in the two countries surrounding bomb attacks in Tehran and other capitals including Delhi and Tbilisi as well as Tuesday’s blasts in Bangkok.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday unveiled what he described as a “very big new achievement” in Iran’s disputed nuclear programme in a ceremony at Tehran’s research reactor, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Nuclear fuel rods that Iran says have been manufactured domestically and enriched to 20% are reported to have been inserted into Tehran’s reactor, Fars added.

Other figures present at the ceremony included the foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s nuclear chief, Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, and the son of an Iranian nuclear scientist, Majid Shahriari, who was assassinated in Tehran in November 2010 in what is widely being seen as a campaign against the regime’s nuclear activities.

The Tehran water research reactor, which is under the surveillance of the UN nuclear agency inspectors, produces radioisotopes for use in medical treatments and agriculture.

At the same time, the state television announced development of a new generation of centrifuges for use in uranium enrichment facilities that it claimed were faster and produce less waste. “The fourth generation of domestically made centrifuges have a higher speed and production capacity … It will be unveiled on Wednesday,” state television said.

Iran’s students news agency, Isna, reported that Ahmadinejad also unveiled the “advanced” centrifuges in a video conference with the Natanz uranium enrichment site. Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told a local news agency that Moscow was concerned about the news from Iran. Iranian news agencies also reported on Sunday that a senior diplomat from China’s foreign ministry, Ma Zhaoxu, was in Tehran negotiating over Iran’s nuclear programme.

Despite raising the stakes with the west by announcing new advances, Iran’s state-run Arabic-language television, al-Alam, said a letter from Tehran had been sent to the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, expressing readiness for fresh nuclear talks with the world’s major powers, including the US, France, Germany, China, Russia and Britain, a group known as P5+1.

In recent years, Iran’s nuclear programme has experienced as series of dramatic setbacks after the assassinations of its nuclear scientists and Stuxnet, a computer worm believed to have been designed by the opponents of the regime to sabotage its nuclear programme.

Four Iranians connected to Tehran’s nuclear programme have been assassinated in the past two years. Another scientist, who was wounded in an assassination attempt, was later promoted to become the country’s nuclear chief.

The Iranian authorities say the nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes but many western governments believe has military applications.

Tensions have escalated after a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency in November resulted in an oil embargo against Iran by the US and its European allies. In response to western sanctions which have recently begun to bite, Iran has resorted to sabre-rattling and threats of closing the strait of Hormuz. In recent weeks, fears of a major confrontation between Iran and Israel have grown. Iran has denied reports that it had cut off oil supplies to six European countries. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

from Saeed Kamali Dehghan


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