In brief: Iran adds hundreds of centrifuges

THURSDAY, MAY 23, 2013

Vienna – Iran further increased its uranium enrichment capacity in the last three months, yet it also limited its progress in certain sensitive areas of its disputed nuclear program in an apparent attempt to avoid risking retaliation from Israel or the United States, according to a report issued Wednesday by the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna said that since February, Iran has added more than 520 advanced-design IR-2M centrifuges at its plant in Natanz. The model has up to five times the capacity of the first-generation centrifuges to enrich uranium.

The installations bring to about 700 the total number of the IR-2M centrifuges, toward Iran’s goal of 3,132.

But Iran also limited the growth in its sensitive stockpile of 20 percent medium-enriched uranium, which can be easily converted to bomb-grade fuel, thus remaining below the Israeli “red line,” the agency found. Israel has been watching to see whether Iran accumulated 250 kilograms of the material, theoretically enough for one nuclear bomb.

Programs for poor to get $3.2 billion aid

Buenos Aires, Argentina – Argentina’s president announced a $3.2 billion annual increase in cash handouts for the poor, students and pregnant women Wednesday, saying the programs will reach nearly 700,000 additional children, pay their families 35 percent more and encourage consumer spending in what is an election year.

Cristina Fernandez said the total cost of the programs will rise to 41 billion pesos, or $7.8 billion a year at the official exchange rate. She called it a powerful boost to consumer demand.

“We’re going to augment the economic activity,” she said. “It’s essential to maintain the level of employment so that the people keep buying things.”

Earlier Wednesday, the government announced that a price freeze on 500 consumer goods would remain in place through October – which is when Argentines cast ballots in legislative elections that will determine whether the president has enough votes in Congress to eliminate constitutional term limits that would end her mandate in 2015.

Water treatment plant breaks down

Montreal – More than one million Montreal residents were told Wednesday to boil their drinking water after a malfunction at Canada’s second-biggest filtration plant.

The malfunction resulted in brownish water gushing from fire hydrants and an unpleasant aroma wafting over parts of the city on Wednesday.

The advisory applied to 1.3 million people and is expected to remain in place until at least this morning. City spokeswoman Valerie De Gagne and others describe it as unprecedented.


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