Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Diplomats say Iran testing advanced P2 centrifuges

AFP , VIENNA

Iran has begun testing advanced second-generation centrifuges, defying UN Security Council demands to end its uranium enrichment activities, Western diplomats said on Wednesday.

The diplomats, who are posted to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, said Iran has begun real tests of P2 centrifuges with uranium gas with the aim of producing enriched uranium.

UN resolutions have called on Tehran suspend all enrichment activity until the IAEA can verify that such activities are entirely peaceful.

"Any Iranian attempt at a more advanced centrifuge would be an escalation of Iran's ongoing non-compliance with its obligation to suspend all enrichment-related activities," the US ambassador to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, said last week.

It would constitute a "further violation of Iran's international commitments -- further reason why we are concerned about the nature of Iran's nuclear program and the intentions of its leaders, and further reason for the Security Council to act," he said.

Last year, IAEA inspectors confirmed Iran's claim that it had 3,000 P1 centrifuges up and running at its Natanz nuclear facility, the amount needed, under ideal conditions, to produce enough material in one year to make a single atom bomb.

Experts say that P2 second-generation centrifuges produce 2.5 times more enriched uranium than P1 centrifuges.

The UN Security Council, led by the US and European countries, is considering new sanctions against Iran, although a vote is not expected until next month after an IAEA report on Iran's cooperation in clearing up past nuclear work.

The proposed new sanctions include an outright travel ban by officials involved in Tehran's nuclear and missile programs and inspections of shipments to and from Iran if there are suspicions of prohibited goods.

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