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Iran's leader reports atomic advancement

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, visits the Natanz uranium enrichment facilities Tuesday. Ahmadinejad announced Iran is installing new nuclear equipment.

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, visits the Natanz uranium enrichment facilities Tuesday. Ahmadinejad announced Iran is installing new nuclear equipment.

TEHRAN, Iran — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced progress in Iran's push for nuclear power, saying Tuesday that his nation was installing thousands of uranium-enriching centrifuges and testing a much faster version of the device.

During a tour of the Natanz underground nuclear facility, Ahmadinejad said scientists were putting 6,000 new centrifuges into place, about twice the current number, and testing a new type that works five times faster.

That would represent a major expansion of uranium enrichment — a process that can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or material for a warhead. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cautioned the claim could not be substantiated yet.

Diplomats close to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency say Iran has exaggerated its progress and seen problems operating the 3,000 centrifuges already in place. One diplomat said Ahmadinejad's claims of a more advanced centrifuge appeared to allude to a type known as the IR-2, which the agency and Iran said months ago that Iran had begun testing.

The IR-2 is believed to be two to three times faster than the centrifuges currently in use. His claim the new machine was five times as quick added to the skepticism.

Permanent members of the Security Council, which already imposed three sets of sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, were divided in their response to the announcement.

The United States and Britain quickly condemned it, and France warned Iran could face more sanctions. But Russia, an ally of Iran, dismissed the need for that, saying negotiators were preparing a new package of incentives aimed at persuading Iran to freeze uranium enrichment.

Group flays gas deal

A major U.S. Jewish organization on Tuesday stepped up opposition to a multibillion-dollar Swiss-Iranian natural gas deal by saying it makes Switzerland "the world's newest financier of terrorism." "When you finance a terrorist state, you finance terrorism," said the New York-based Anti-Defamation League in full-page advertisements in major Swiss newspapers and in similar ads in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune and the Wall Street Journal. Alfred Donath, president of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, whose organization had already criticized the gas deal, said the accusations in the ads were "exaggerated." The Swiss Foreign Ministry also rejected the criticism.

Associated Press

Iran's leader reports atomic advancement 04/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 10:25am]

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