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Iran said to be poised for big nuclear jump

VIENNA — Iran appears poised to greatly expand uranium enrichment at a fortified underground bunker to a point that would boost how quickly it could make nuclear warheads.

The Associated Press said it was told by diplomats that Tehran has put finishing touches on preparations to install thousands of new-generation centrifuges at the Fordo facility — machines that can produce enriched uranium much more quickly and efficiently than its present machines.

While saying that the electrical circuitry, piping and supporting equipment for the new centrifuges was now in place, the diplomats emphasized that Tehran had not started installing the new machines at Fordo and could not say whether it was planning to, AP reported.

The diplomats suggested that Tehran would have little reason to prepare the ground for the better centrifuges unless it planned to operate them, AP said.

International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors are scheduled to visit Tehran today. But little is expected from the visit, the second this month, since Iran refuses to allow IAEA experts to visit Parchin, the suspected site of explosives testing for a nuclear weapon, AP said it was told by the diplomats.

British warn against attack: An attack on Iran would carry huge costs, British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned Saturday. Hague told the right-leaning Daily Telegraph that while Iran's suspected drive for atomic weapons could lead to a dangerous standoff in the Middle East, he favored more time to let diplomacy and economic pressure run its course. Hague didn't spell out what the downsides to an attack would be, but former British ambassador to Tehran Richard Dalton told BBC television that they would likely include a drawn-out conflict, retaliatory strikes against U.S. facilities, terrorist attacks and serious disruption to world energy supplies.

Stuxnet infection: The semiofficial Fars news agency on Saturday quoted a deputy intelligence chief identified only as Ahangaran as saying 16,000 computers were infected by the Stuxnet computer virus, but he did not specify whether worldwide or just in Iran. Stuxnet targeted Iran's nuclear facilities and other industrial sites in 2010, and Tehran has acknowledged the malicious software affected a limited number of centrifuges — a key component in nuclear fuel production.

Iran said to be poised for big nuclear jump 02/18/12 [Last modified: Saturday, February 18, 2012 7:28pm]

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