Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Iran's nuclear program "irreversible": Ahmadinejad

Iran's nuclear program is irreversible, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday, voicing continued defiance in the face of possible new international sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

He also insisted that Iran now has 3,000 centrifuges, used to enrich uranium, in its underground Natanz nuclear plant. Enriched uranium can fuel power plants but also, if refined further, provide material for bombs.

Western experts say 3,000 machines running smoothly for long periods at supersonic speed could make enough enriched uranium for an atomic bomb in about a year, if Iran wanted, and form the basis for "industrial-scale" nuclear fuel production.

But an International Atomic Energy Agency report said in August Iran remained well short of 3,000 centrifuges functioning and that its rate of enrichment was still far below capacity.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack could not confirm Ahmadinejad's claim of 3,000 centrifuges in place and said the United States was awaiting an upcoming assessment by the IAEA.

"Whether it is 2,000 or 2,500 or 3,000 or 1,000 centrifuges, the fact of the matter is -- the irreducible fact -- is that they are continuing to defy the international community, that they have refused the offers of negotiation and cooperation," McCormack told reporters.
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