M A I N   N E W S

Iran deepens standoff with West
Unveils new line of enrichment centrifuges nLoads first domestically made fuel rods into Tehran reactor

Tehran, February 15
Iran proclaimed advances in nuclear know-how on Wednesday, including new centrifuges able to enrich uranium much faster, a move that may hasten a drift towards confrontation with the West over suspicions it is seeking the means to make atomic bombs.

Tehran was driving home its resolve to pursue a nuclear programme its hardline Islamic clerical leaders see as a pillar of power, protection and prestige despite Western sanctions that are inflicting increasing damage on its oil-based economy.

Iran also aimed to show that the tightening sanctions noose has failed to stop it making progress in nuclear technology and to firm its hand in any renewed negotiations with world powers.

"The era of bullying nations is past. The arrogant powers cannot monopolise nuclear technology. They tried to prevent us by issuing sanctions and resolutions but failed," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a live television broadcast. "Our nuclear path will continue."

However, Iran's Arabic-language Al Alam television said the government had handed a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressing readiness to "hold new talks over its nuclear programme in a constructive way". An Ashton spokeswoman confirmed receipt of the letter, saying she was evaluating it and would consult with the United States, Russia, China and other partners among the big powers.

Iranian officials have long refused to negotiate curbs on its programme, saying it aims solely to produce electricity for booming domestic demand in OPEC's No. 2 oil-exporting state.

The most recent talks between world powers and Iran collapsed in January 2011 when they could not agree an agenda.

The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran if diplomacy and sanctions are ultimately judged futile in reining in its nuclear activity.

Underlining the high stakes and at times nervous confusion arising from the nuclear stand-off, Iran's Oil Ministry denied a state media report that it had cut off oil exports to six European Union states. Brent crude oil prices jumped up $1 a barrel to $118.35 in reaction to the announcement.

"We deny this report ... If such a decision is made, it will be announced by Iran's Supreme National Security Council," a spokesman for the ministry said. Iran's English language Press TV said Tehran had halted oil deliveries to France, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Netherlands and Spain — its biggest EU customers — in retaliation for an EU ban.

...Analysts sceptical...

We have seen this before. We have seen these announcements and these grand unveilings and it turns out that there was less there than meets the eye. I suspect this is the same case.
— Shannon Kile, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Will go ahead: Iran

The era of bullying nations is past. The arrogant powers cannot monopolise nuclear technology. They tried to prevent us by issuing sanctions and resolutions but failed. Our nuclear path will continue.
— Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,  Iran President

Undermining stability

Iran is undermining the world’s stability and harms innocent diplomats. World countries must condemn Iran’s terror acts and draw a red line. This aggression, if not stopped, will eventually spread.
— Benjamin Netanyahu,  Israeli Prime Minister 





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