Ahmadinejad at visit to Natanz facility
Photo: AFP

Is Iran inflating atom progress?

Diplomat close to IAEA says Tehran claims of having over 5,000 working centrifuges exaggerated, insists number of centrifuges regularly enriching uranium under 4,000

Iran appears to have overstated the expansion of its uranium enrichment capacity, a diplomat close to the UN nuclear watchdog agency said on Monday.


He said the International Atomic Energy Agency checked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's announcement on Saturday that Iran had more than 5,000 centrifuges running and could verify just 4,000 were installed, 3,500 of which were regularly enriching uranium.


"This is the latest, verified information the agency has, as of today," said the Vienna diplomat, familiar with the UN watchdog's inspections in Iran. These figures seemed little changed from the IAEA's last Iran report two months ago.


He said it could not be ruled out Iran indeed had greater numbers of centrifuges operating as Ahmadinejad because Iran limits the scope and frequency of IAEA inspections, but his figures could not be corroborated now.


Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had more than 5,000 active centrifuges for enriching uranium, suggesting a rapid expansion of a secretive nuclear fuel program that the West suspects is aimed at yielding atomic bombs.


But the diplomat close to the IAEA said Iran's progress in augmenting enrichment capacity towards "industrial scale" - refining uranium in quantities sufficient for a nuclear energy program - still seemed to be slow.


Western officials said after a meeting with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator in Geneva on July 19 it had two weeks to reply to an offer of a halt to steps towards more UN sanctions if Iran froze the expansion of enrichment activity.


Six major powers have offered Iran economic and other incentives if it entirely suspends enrichment activity that potentially could be put to civilian or military uses.


Iran denies any covert bomb program, saying it wants enriched uranium only for an alternative source of electricity so it can export more of its vast oil reserves.


פרסום ראשון: 07.28.08, 21:47
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