Report: Iran building centrifuges to enrich uranium
VIENNA, Austria – Iran is once again building centrifuges that can be used to make nuclear weaponry, breaking the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency’s seals on the equipment in a show of defiance against international efforts to monitor its program, diplomats said Tuesday.
Iran has not restarted enriching uranium with the centrifuges – a step that would raise further alarm. But the resumption of centrifuge construction is likely to push European nations, which have been seeking a negotiated resolution, closer to the United States’ more confrontational stance.
The United States accuses Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons and wants the U.N. Security Council to take up the issue. Iran denies the charge and says the centrifuges are part of a nuclear program aimed only at producing energy.
Under international pressure last year, the Islamic republic agreed to stop enriching uranium and stop making centrifuges, in a deal reached with Britain, France and Germany.
But the moratorium ended several weeks ago, when Tehran – angry over international perusal of its nuclear program – broke seals placed on enrichment equipment by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the diplomats told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Iranian officials then resumed assembling and installing centrifuges, which can enrich uranium fuel for generating power or developing warheads, the diplomats said.
The diplomats – all familiar with Iran’s nuclear dossier – cautioned against equating Tehran’s move with the removal of IAEA seals on nuclear equipment by North Korea two years ago as it expelled agency inspectors and declared itself no longer bound by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Unlike in North Korea, the seals on Iran’s equipment “were not a legal requirement,” one diplomat said. Tehran notified the IAEA of its decision to break the seals, the diplomat said.
Iran continues to respect its pledge not to resume nuclear enrichment, said the diplomat.
Still, the move reflected Iranian defiance of international constraints on the country’s nuclear program.