Iran says it’s adding new, faster centrifuges

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran is installing a new generation of nuclear centrifuges capable of enriching uranium five times more rapidly than the country’s existing technology, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Tuesday.

He said 6,000 of the machines would be put into production after two to three more months of testing, and vowed in a speech laden with bombast that “the nuclear victory of Iran is the start of the ever-increasing destruction of the imperialistic state.”

Iran currently has 3,000 centrifuges of an older type, which are used to enrich uranium to a level that provides fuel for nuclear energy, Iranian leaders say. A February report by the International Atomic Energy Agency mentions the existence of new centrifuges but not in such large numbers.

The Bush administration said that it could not substantiate Ahmadinejad’s claims but that the basics of Iran’s capabilities have not changed.

“There are always multiple claims coming out of Iran about progress on this or progress on that. I don’t think that the underlining situation has changed, which is that Iran faces three separate Security Council resolutions,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters Tuesday.

The United States and some other Western countries suspect Iran of trying to build a nuclear weapon, but a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate released in November concluded that Iran stopped working on an atomic bomb in 2003.

Since 2006, the U.N. Security Council has authorized three sets of sanctions against Iran, demanding a stop to all enrichment activities.

During a televised speech Tuesday evening, the Iranian president marked Iran’s “national nuclear day” and told an auditorium in Tehran filled with Iranian dignitaries and foreign ambassadors that “all political and economical movements in the world are connected with Iran’s nuclear program, which belongs to all humanity.”

After briefly explaining the advantages of the newer, faster and simpler centrifuges, he focused on the “coming destruction of the imperialistic state,” meaning the West.

He also questioned the circumstances of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, asserting that the names of the victims “were never given out.” The attacks were a pretext, Ahmadinejad said, “to send the largest armada to our region to attack the poor people of Afghanistan and the pure Iraqis.”

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