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Photo: Reuters
Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei
Photo: Reuters
Photo: AFP
Natanz uranium enrichment plant (archive)
Photo: AFP
Khamenei: Israel dividing Muslim world
Iranian supreme leader tells Pakistani President Musharraf, 'Zionist regime was created by West to divide Muslim world'; says regional troubles will end once 'era of American aggressiveness and Zionist crimes passes'

"The establishment of the Zionist regime was an act committed by the West to create an ongoing clash in the Muslim world," said Iran's supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on Monday during a meeting with visiting Pakistani President Gen. Perves Musharraf.

 

Musharraf, who recently arrived in Tehran, heard Khamenei describe the American and British support of Israel as encouragement to continue committing crimes against the Palestinians.

 

"Any plan involving the Middle East will not be successful until the era of American aggressiveness ends and the Zionist crimes are stopped," said Khamenei.

 


Ahmadinejad (L), Musharraf and Khamenei in Teheran on Monday (Photo: AFP)

 

Khamenei also focused on the Palestinian issue, saying that Israel's weaknesses became apparent during the Lebanon war while the Hamas government's "stand against the 'Zionists' is helping to show the path to the Palestinians' problem."

 

328 centrifuges in Natanz nuclear plant

Meanwhile, European diplomats reported on Monday that Iran has installed two cascades of 164 centrifuges each in its underground nuclear plant, laying a basis for full-scale enrichment of uranium and upping the stakes in a standoff with the West.

 

The cascades were to be test-run shortly, without uranium feedstock inside, and fuel material would then be added if the tests were successful, they said. The 328 centrifuges would be the precursor of 3,000 planned for installation in the coming months.

 

Iran recently finished installing piping, electrical cables and other equipment needed to begin so-called "industrial-scale" enrichment in the vast subterranean complex, which is fortified and ringed by anti-aircraft guns in the central Iranian desert.

 

Firing up the cascades would dramatically sharpen Iran's confrontation with Western powers that pushed through limited UN sanctions on Tehran six weeks ago to try to curb what they suspect is a disguised effort to assemble atomic bombs.

 

The Islamic Republic, the world's No. 4 oil producer, says it wants solely civilian atomic energy from uranium enrichment.

 

Diplomats said the launch of the first two cascades may be the gist of Iran's planned announcement of "significant" nuclear progress on Feb. 11, when it crowns 10 days of celebrations marking the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

 

News agencies contributed to this report

 

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