In first revealing plans to update last month, Iran indicated that It could add more than 3,000 of the new-generation centrifuges to the more than 10,000 older models it has at Natanz turning out enriched uranium at grades lower than at Fordo. The lower the grade, the harder it would be to turn into weapons-grade material.
Olli Heinonen, the former IAEA deputy director general in charge of Iran, told the AP last week that Iran could install 3,000 or more of the high-tech centrifuges at Natanz within six to nine months, assuming that Tehran had the material to make the machines.
Iran, in its dealings both with the six powers and the IAEA, has continually acted as if it were in the position of strength. On Saturday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, asserted that his country was not seeking nuclear weapons, but that if Tehran intended to build them, "the U.S. could in no way stop the Iranian nation."
David Albright, whose Institute for Science and International Security is a source for the U.S. government on proliferation issues, said Iran's hopes that the new centrifuges could strengthen its hand at the Kazakhstan talks could backfire.
"Given the low expectations for negotiations during the next several months, Iran risks giving the impression to the West that it is racing to the bomb rather than strengthening its negotiating position," he said Wednesday.
But analyst Yousaf Butt, professor and scientist-in-residence at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, said that — with Iran legally entitled to enrich —the six powers first "should consider rolling back some sanctions" if they want Iran to respond.
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