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Iran Has 18,000 Centrifuges, Says Outgoing Nuclear Chief

Iran has about 18,000 centrifuges, including 10,000 active ones, the outgoing head of the country's atomic agency said Saturday.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/18/2013, 5:12 AM

Bushehr nuclear power plant
Bushehr nuclear power plant
AFP photo

Iran has about 18,000 centrifuges, including 10,000 active ones, the outgoing head of the country's atomic agency said Saturday, according to the AFP news agency.

The comments confirmed figures from the UN watchdog overseeing its disputed nuclear drive.

"At the beginning of the month of Mordad (from July 23) we had 17,000 first generation centrifuges, of which more than 10,000 are active and 7,000 ready to start work," said Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, quoted by the ISNA news agency.

"Some 1,000 second generation centrifuges have also been installed and are ready to start work," he said, speaking at the handover ceremony for his role to Ali Akbar Salehi, who served as former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s foreign minister.

In May, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran had installed 17,600 centrifuges, including 16,590 first generation and 1,000 second generation.

Iran says it enriches uranium to five and 20 percent for peaceful purposes.

Officials in the Islamic republic say the higher level is needed for a medical research reactor in Tehran.

Western powers and Israel suspect, however, that Iran is seeking to develop atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear program.

Newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last week that Tehran was ready for "serious" talks on the nuclear issue without delay and that his country's atomic program was an inalienable right.

Salehi said for his part that the president would "be personally responsible for the nuclear issue," reported AFP.

During his role as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005, Rouhani accepted the suspension of the enrichment program.

Last week, he reiterated his insistence that Iran would not negotiate under the threat of economic sanctions or military action.

He hit out at "contradictory messages" from Washington, with the White House saying that it would be a "willing partner" in genuine talks, but the U.S. Senate urging tougher sanctions.

"Recent declarations from the White House show that some U.S. officials do not have a correct and realistic assessment of the situation here and the message that the Iranian people gave in the election," Rouhani said.