Thursday, April 12, 2007

U.N: Iran Nuclear Development "Limited"

UPDATE: Check out the new blog covering the Mid East: Outsider On The Inside

The head of the IAEA, Mohamed El Baradei, played down Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad's comments Monday that his country had reached the industrial phase of nuclear development.

Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran's nuclear program was a concern, but he discounted Tehran's claims of a major advance in uranium enrichment, a process the United Nations demands Iran suspend or else be hit by increasing sanctions.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Monday that the Natanz facility had begun "industrial-scale" production of nuclear fuel. Iran's top nuclear negotiator said workers had begun injecting uranium gas into a new array of 3,000 centrifuges, many more than the 328 centrifuges known to be operating at Natanz.

Iran ultimately aims to operate more than 50,000 of the devices at the site.

According to Baradei, Iran is not operating 3,000 centrifuges as it claims:

Baradei, head of the U.N's International Atomic Energy Agency, said "Iran is still just at the beginning stages in setting up its Natanz enrichment facility."

"The talk of building a facility with 50,000 centrifuges is just at the beginning, and it is (currently) only in the hundreds," he told reporters in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

He also played down suspicions that Iran is running a hidden uranium enrichment program.

"It has not been demonstrated until now that there are underground nuclear facilities in Iran working covertly, and Iran doesn't have the material that can be used to make a nuclear weapon," ElBaradei said.

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