Iran installing new nuclear equipment: IAEA
VIENNA/JERUSALEM/WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali Asghar Soltanieh delivers a speech and answers to questions during a press meeting as part of the IAEA Board of Governors meeting at the UN atomic agency headquarters in Vienna on November 29, 2012. Iran has begun installing next-generation equipment at one of its main nuclear plants, a new UN atomic agency report said Feb 21. AFP photoIran has begun installing next-generation equipment at one of its main nuclear plants, a new UN atomic agency report said Thursday, five days before talks with world powers.
"On 6 February 2013, the Agency observed that Iran had started the installation of IR-2m centrifuges" at the Natanz plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency report said.
"This is the first time that centrifuges more advanced than the IR-1 have been installed" at the plant in central Iran, it said.
One official said that Iran intended to install around 3,000 of the new centrifuges at Natanz -- where around 12,500 of the older models are installed -- enabling it to speed up the enrichment of uranium.
This process is at the heart of the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear programme, since enriched uranium -- at high levels -- can be used in a nuclear weapon.
The new report said that Iran has so far produced 280 kilos (617 pounds) of 20-percent uranium, of which around 110 kilos have been diverted to fuel production.
Experts say that around 250 kilos are needed for one bomb, although creating a weapon requires several other steps and if Iran were to start further enriching to weapons-grade this would be detected by the IAEA.
The report came ahead of a new meeting between Iran and six world powers -- the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany -- in Kazakhstan on February 26.
These talks between the P5+1 and Iran will be the first since June, when three rounds of meetings last year ended in stalemate in Moscow.
Iran closer than ever to nuclear bomb: Israel
Israel slammed Iran over the new UN report saying that Tehran is "closer than ever" to the ability to build a nuclear bomb
The International Atomic Energy Agency's report said Iran started installing new and advanced centrifuges at Natanz, which would enable it to speed up the enrichment of uranium.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the report was "severe," and "proves Iran is continuing to rapidly advance to the red line that the prime minister drew at his speech in the United Nations." "Iran is closer than ever today to obtaining enriched material for a nuclear bomb," the statement read. In a September address to the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu called for a "clear red line" to stop Iran getting a nuclear bomb.
He used a red marker pen to draw a line through a cartoon diagram of a bomb to illustrate what the international community's limit for Iran's uranium enrichment program should be.
Thursday's statement noted that "preventing nuclear arms from Iran will be the first topic Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will discuss with US President Barack Obama," expected in Israel in March.
Meanwhile, the United States warned Iran that the installation of next-generation centrifuges at one of its main nuclear plants, as reported by the UN atomic agency, would be a "provocative step."
The installation "would be a further escalation and a continuing violation of Iran's obligations under the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and IAEA board resolutions," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Iran denies seeking atomic weapons but many in the international community suspect otherwise, and the UN Security Council has passed several resolutions calling on Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment.