Iran ´may boost nuclear programme´, diplomat warns (BBC) British Broadcasting Company) 19 February 2012 Last updated at 01:53 GMT)
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Iran may be poised to expand its nuclear programme at an underground
site near the city of Qom, a Vienna-based diplomat has told the BBC.
It appears to be ready to install thousands of new-generation
centrifuges at the fortified underground plant, the diplomat said.
They could speed up the production of enriched uranium - required for
both power generation and nuclear weapons.
The United Nations nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, has not commented.
Its inspectors are due to visit Tehran this week for another round of
talks on Iran´s nuclear activities, after they were denied access to
certain nuclear sites and scientists on a visit last month.
Iran says its nuclear work is for purely peaceful purposes, but
Western countries express fears that Iran is secretly trying to
develop a nuclear bomb.
This is another warning that Iran may be stepping up its
controversial nuclear work, despite increasing international
sanctions, says the BBC´s Bethany Bell in Vienna.
According to other accounts by diplomats requesting anonymity, the
Qom facility now contains the electrical circuitry, piping and
supporting equipment required for the new centrifuges - though they
add that the centrifuges have not yet been fitted and there is no
certainty about if and when they will be.
Three days ago, Iran itself said it had advanced its nuclear know-
how, including developing centrifuges able to enrich uranium faster.
The developments come against the backdrop of rising tensions over
the issue, following an IAEA report in November which claimed that
Iran had "carried out activities relevant to the development of a
nuclear device", including:
On Saturday, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague warned Iran´s nuclear
ambitions could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region - where at
present the only country believed to possess such weapons is Israel
Speaking in Tokyo, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak called for
sanctions on Iran to be tightened still further, saying
only "crippling" measures would force it to give up its nuclear
programme. But he reportedly added that Israeli military action
against Iran was not on the table for the time being
Iranian warships entered the Mediterranean Sea for only the second
time since the 1979 revolution, in what navy chief Admiral Habibollah
Sayari told Irna agency was a show of might and a "message of peace"
Israel earlier accused Iran of masterminding attacks on its embassies
in India, Thailand and Georgia - an accusation denied by Iran.
Several rounds of increasingly punitive UN and Western sanctions -
the latest targeting Iran´s oil and financial sectors - have failed
to force Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions.
Instead, there is increasingly feverish media speculation that Israel
is planning a military strike on Iran´s nuclear facilities.
On Saturday, Israel´s military chief of staff, Lt Gen Benny Gantz
told a state TV station the country would ultimately make any
decision to strike on its own, reported AFP news agency, saying it
was "the central guarantor of its own security".
US national security adviser Tom Donilon has arrived in Israel for
talks with officials on a range of issues including Iran.
Qom enrichment plant
Sept 2009: Existence of facility revealed
Iran initially says the plant is designed to enrich uranium up to 5%,
commonly used in nuclear power production
Apr 2011: No enriched uranium found in IAEA samples from the site
Jan 2012: Iran says it has begun enrichment up to 20% at the site (©
BBC MMXII 02/19/12)
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