Iran is installing a new generation of nuclear centrifuges with “better quality and speed,” defying international demands to halt atomic activities and prompting anger from several Western powers.
Tehran insists that its nuclear programme is peaceful, and that uranium is being refined for electricity generation and medical applications.
“All Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities are being conducted in cooperation with the IAEA, and all the details have been reported to the agency,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast.
“This is another confirmation of the Islamic republic’s successful stride in its nuclear activities,” said Mr Mehmanparast. “Iran is pushing ahead with its nuclear activities, regardless of the restrictions and measures taken to hinder them.”
Report: Iran installing next generation of centrifuges [Tehran Times, 20 Jul 2011]
However, Western countries have not responded well to the latest announcement.
France condemned the move as “a new wave of provocation” that flouts UN resolutions. “It clearly confirms the suspicions of the IAEA and the international community regarding the purpose of a program without any credible civilian objective,” said the French Foreign Ministry in a statement, calling on Tehran to “suspend its sensitive activities.”
Report & Analysis: Iran to ‘speed up’ uranium enrichment at nuclear plants [BBC, 19 Jul 2011]
Last month, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Iran had been carrying out covert tests of missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload, and wants to enrich uranium to “levels far greater than is needed for peaceful nuclear energy.”
The British Foreign Office said the latest announcement “further undermines Iran’s claim that its nuclear programme is designed for purely peaceful purposes… Iran must understand that we will not be distracted by events in the region and it should not doubt our resolve.”
Report: Iran’s acceleration of its nuclear programme angers the west [Guardian, 19 Jul 2011]
The move follows an 8 June statement from Iran’s Atomic Organisation, announcing plans to triple Iran’s capacity to produce 20 percent enriched uranium – a “significant step” towards producing an atomic bomb, according to Foreign Secretary Hague.
Opinion: Iran’s nuclear threat is escalating [Guardian, 11 Jul 2011]
The IAEA has said it cannot verify whether the intent of Tehran’s nuclear program remains peaceful. Enriched uranium can be used for both civilian purposes and for the development of atomic weapons.
In February, an IAEA report raised concerns that Iran was not engaging sufficiently with the agency, and discussed possible activities “related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” In June, the agency voiced its “concern about the possible existence of hidden nuclear activities” and criticised Tehran’s refusal to respond to repeated requests for clarification.
Report & Analysis: Iran installs ‘speedier’ nuclear centrifuges [AFP, 19 Jul 2011]
Diplomatic efforts to find a solution to Iran’s nuclear dispute have stalled, after talks between Iran and six world powers broke down last December.
The UN Security Council has repeatedly ordered Tehran to halt all uranium enrichment until the IAEA has verified that its nuclear activities are peaceful. The US has also imposed sanctions on Iran, pressuring them to stop illicitly developing their military programme.
There are already six UN Security Council resolutions requiring Iran to suspend enrichment immediately, all of which have been ignored by Iran. Iran has so far refused to enter into any negotiations on its nuclear programme until the E3+3 nations (Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and the US) agrees to lift all sanctions and recognise Iran’s right to enrich.
Report & Analysis: France condemns Iran nuclear move as ‘provocation’ [CNN, 19 Jul 2011]