Iran ready to step up nuclear production

2012-02-19 22:22

London - Iran was on Sunday reported to be poised to step up uranium enrichment, ahead of the arrival of United Nations nuclear inspectors in Tehran too seek clarity on the nature of its nuclear programme.

The BBC, quoting an unnamed diplomat in Vienna - where the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)is based - reported that the country, which is suspected of building a nuclear weapon, was poised to install thousands of new generation centrifuges.

The centrifuges, which are needed for the process of uranium enrichment, were destined for the fortified Fordo plant near the city of Qom, the BBC said.

According to the broadcaster, other diplomats requesting anonymity had previously said the facility was already fitted with the electrical circuitry, piping and equipment required for the centrifuges.

Tehran, itself has said it plans to use a new type of centrifuge capable of a far higher enrichment speed than previous models at Fordo, which has been constructed for at least 3 000 centrifuges but not yet officially inaugurated.

Western powers are concerned that Iran is building a nuclear weapon.

Iran denies its nuclear programme is directed at creating nuclear bombs, but has confirmed its plans to upgrade uranium enrichment to the 20% level at its Natanz site in central Iran.

The BBC report comes ahead of the arrival in Tehran on Monday of a high-ranking inspection team from the IAEA, which is seeking a diplomatic solution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague in an interview on Sunday warned that Iran acquiring nuclear weapons would plunge the Middle East into "a new Cold War." He told the Daily Telegraph newspaper other nations in the region would want to develop nuclear weapons if Iran did.

This would be "a disaster in world affairs" and lack the "the safety mechanisms" that prevented the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union escalating into a real war.

But at a news conference in Tehran, Iran's Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi rejected Hague's remarks.

"This is only an effort [by Britain] to create an anti-Iran atmosphere in the media. This is part of their political agenda. We will however continue our course and use of peaceful nuclear technology without any doubt and with self-confidence.

"At the same time, we are also prepared for the worst scenario," he said.

Read more on:    william hague  |  uk  |  iran  |  iran nuclear programme

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