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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Iran Tested New Centrifuge Cascade Despite Sanctions Threat


Vienna: Iran has tested a second 164-centrifuge "cascade" in its pilot nuclear plant despite the looming threat of UN sanctions over its nuclear programme, a Western diplomat told AFP on Monday.

The cascade, which is necessary to enrich uranium, "has been going for a little while", said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The diplomat did not specify the exact date that the cascade began operating.

Iran was only testing the cascade and had not yet used it to enrich uranium, the diplomat added.

While enriched uranium is used as fuel for nuclear reactors, highly enriched uranium can also be used to make nuclear bombs.

The spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, Melissa Fleming, said she was "not in a position to comment" on the claim.

The United States maintains that Iran is seeking to develop atomic weapons, but Iran insists its nuclear programme is for purely peaceful purposes.

The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana has been trying to persuade Tehran to abandon enrichment, but his latest round of talks with Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani broke down this month.

In the face of Iran's refusal to halt enrichment, Britain, France and Germany have now drawn up a draft resolution to put to the UN Security Council calling for sanctions against the Islamic republic.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday that his country would not retreat even "an inch" over its nuclear programme despite the threat of sanctions.
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