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01.12.2009 International

Iran Accuses West

By Daily Graphic
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A top Iranian official has accused the West of provoking his country into launching a plan to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants.

Vice-President Ali Akbar Salehi said a UN demand for Iran to halt work on a recently revealed site had 'prompted the government to approve the plan'.

'Apparently the West doesn't want to understand Iran's peaceful message,' he told Iranian state radio.

Tehran's move has fuelled further concerns over its nuclear programme.

Western powers say Iran is trying to develop nuclear arms. Iran has said its nuclear programme is peaceful.

A source in Russia's foreign ministry told local news agencies on Monday that Russia, which supplies much of Iran's nuclear technology, was 'seriously concerned by the latest statements of the Iranian leadership'.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told a French radio programme that Iran was being 'a bit childish'.

'Iran is playing an extremely dangerous game,' he said.

'There's no coherence in all this, other than a gut reaction.' Iran's proposed new plants would be of a similar size to its main existing enrichment plant at Natanz.

Mr Salehi, who also heads Iran's nuclear programme, said Iran had had 'no intention of building many facilities like the Natanz site'.

But he accused foreign powers of pushing the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to rebuke Iran for covering up another uranium enrichment plant near the town of Qom.

'The action by 5+1 [the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany] at the IAEA prompted the [Iranian] government to approve a proposal to build 10 sites like that of Natanz,' Mr Salehi said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told his cabinet at the weekend that parliament had ordered that Iran should produce 20,000 megawatts of nuclear energy by 2020.

It therefore needed to make 250-300 tonnes of nuclear fuel a year, he said, which would require 500,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium.

Natanz has nearly 5,000 working centrifuges, with existing plans to build 54,000 in all.

Under the plan Mr Ahmadinejad presented to the cabinet, the level of enrichment would also be increased.

The Iranian parliament reportedly later urged Mr Ahmadinejad's government to reduce co-operation with the IAEA.

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