Tehran installing 3,000 centrifuges, Iranian legislator says
Another official later denies any acceleration in nuclear program
Iran has begun installing 3,000 centrifuges to increase its uranium enrichment program, a senior Iranian legislator said Saturday — but the claim was later denied by the country's nuclear body.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of the Iranian parliament's foreign policy and national security committee, said the installation of the centrifuges — which spin uranium gas into enriched material —was underway at a plant in Natanz.
The installation "stabilizes Iran's capability in the field of nuclear technology," Boroujerdi said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
His comments seemed to underline that Tehran plans to continue to develop its nuclear program despite United Nations sanctions.
They came a day after Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he believed Iran planned to begin work in February on a uranium enrichment facility underground. A subterranean facility would protect a nuclear project from attack.
However, Hossein Simorgh, the head of public affairs at Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, later repudiated Boroujerdi's claim.
"No new centrifuge machine has been installed in Natanz facility," Simorgh was quoted as saying by Iran's IRNA news agency.
UN inspectors arrive in Iran
Three inspectors from the United Nations nuclear watchdog who arrived in Iran on Saturday are scheduled to visit the uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, Iranian state television reported.
Iran barred 38 inspectors from the United Nations nuclear watchdog earlier in the week because they come from countries that voted for sanctions on Iran.
State television did not give the nationalities of the three inspectors, and the IAEA could not immediately confirm their arrival in Iran.
More sanctions threatened in February
The installation of centrifuges would only be Tehran's latest gesture of defiance toward the international community over its nuclear program.
The UN Security Council voted unanimously in favor of economic sanctions on Dec. 23 after Iran ignored an earlier deadline to halt enrichment.
Iran faces the prospect of additional United Nations sanctions unless it stops uranium enrichment by the end of a 60-day period that ends in February.
Large scale use of centrifuges makes it possible to produce more enriched uranium in a shorter period. Enriched uranium is used to fuel nuclear reactors and to make nuclear weapons.
Many countries, including the United States, believe that Iran is using its nuclear program as a cover to produce an atomic weapon. Iran says its program is only for generating electricity.