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Defiant, Iran to enrich uranium

Tehran, December 24
Iran vowed today to start work immediately on drastically expanding its capacity to enrich uranium, defying the first-ever UN sanctions against the Islamic republic's nuclear programme.

Top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said work would start as early as today on installing 3,000 uranium enriching centrifuges at a key nuclear plant, hours after the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution against Iran.

"Our immediate response to the UN Security Council is that, as of today, we will start the activities at the site of the 3,000 centrifuge machines in Natanz and we will go ahead with full speed," Mr Larijani said.

"We have said repeatedly that if the West wanted to exploit the UN Security Council it will not only have no influence but make us more determined to pursue our nuclear goals even faster," he told the hardline Kayhan daily.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the UN resolution as just a "scrap of paper" and said the West would have to learn to live with Iran possessing nuclear technology.

"Whether the West likes it or not, Iran is a nuclear country and it is in their interests to live alongside Iran," he said according to the semi-official Fars agency.

Installing 3,000 centrifuges would mark an important step for Iran towards an industrial scale enrichment of uranium, a process the West wants the Islamic republic to suspend as it can be used to make both fuel and nuclear bombs.

So far, Iran has two cascades of 164 centrifuges at the plant in Natanz in central Iran which it has used to enrich uranium on a research scale to levels high enough to make nuclear fuel.

Iran has maintained that it wants to have the 3,000 new centrifuges installed by March and Ahmadinejad has said the Islamic republic will be able to celebrate its "nuclearisation" around that time.

After weeks of diplomatic wrangling, the UN Security Council yesterday adopted a resolution which imposes restrictions on Iran's nuclear industry and ballistic missile programme.

The resolution warned that if Tehran refuses to comply with UN demands to freeze enrichment, the Council "shall adopt further appropriate measures under Article 41 of Chapter Seven" of the UN charter, a reference to non-military sanctions.

Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who worked hard in weeks of diplomatic horse-trading to soften the resolution, expressed hope that Iran "will respond constructively". AFP

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