Sen. Menendez
Sen. MenendezScreenshot

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has told Fox News that the “Iranians are showing their true intentions,” following a statement Thursday by Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, that his country is building a new generation of centrifuges for uranium enrichment but they “require further tests” before they can be mass produced.

Menendez is putting pressure on the administration by urging Congress to pass sanctions legislation against Iran following the statement by Salehi.

“If you’re talking about producing more advanced centrifuges that are only used to enrich uranium at a quicker rate … the only purposes of that and the only reason you won’t give us access to [a military research facility] is because you’re really not thinking about nuclear power for domestic energy — you’re thinking about nuclear power for nuclear weapons,” said Menendez.

In addition, two officials familiar with Iran’s nuclear activities revealed to the Associated Press Friday that Iranian technical experts told counterparts from the six powers last week that some of the centrifuges have been installed at “a research tract of one of Iran’s enriching sites.”

Iran argued that it had a right to do so under the research and development provisions of the Nov. 24 Geneva II accord, said the officials, who represent countries that are members of the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear agency monitoring Tehran’s atomic activities. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the closed meetings.

Iran’s approach is being hotly disputed by the United States and other representatives of the six powers – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – said the officials. They said they have argued that installing any centrifuge that increases overall numbers, particularly a new model, violates Tehran’s commitment to freeze the amount and type of enriching machines at Nov. 24 levels.

In commitments under the Geneva II accord, Iran agreed to freeze the number of centrifuges enriching uranium for six months and only to produce models now installed or in operation, so it can exchange them piece by piece for any damaged ones. At the same time, the interim deal allows Iran to continue centrifuge research and development.