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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Iran to start 2nd nuclear centrifuge in days - agency

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has installed a second cascade for uranium enrichment and will start injecting uranium gas into it within days, Iran's student news agency ISNA reported on Wednesday.

"Iran's second cascade has been installed two weeks ago and the injection of gas into it will be done this week," the agency quoted an informed source as saying. "Soon after injection of the gas, we will obtain the product of the second centrifuge cascade."

Diplomats said earlier this week that Iran, which faces possible U.N. Security Council sanctions because of its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, appeared to be testing the second batch of centrifuges which can enrich uranium for either power plan or nuclear bomb fuel.

Its original cascade first produced a tiny amount of home-grown enriched uranium in April.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday that Western powers were wrong if they thought his country would retreat under political pressure from its nuclear plans.

The Islamic Republic says it wants to enrich uranium only to generate electricity. The West suspects that OPEC's No. 2 oil exporter is trying to build bombs under the guise of a civilian programme to threaten Israel and Western interests.

Western intelligence experts estimate Iran remains 3-10 years away from an industrial-scale operation of thousands of centrifuges that could yield enough fuel for nuclear bombs.

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