Iran Leader Seeks Vast Nuclear-Fuel Boost

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July 8, 2014, 6:42 a.m.

Ir­an’s top lead­er said Tehran would need to puri­fy urani­um nearly 20 times faster, as out­siders raced to cap its abil­ity to fuel nuc­le­ar bombs, Re­u­ters re­ports.

Ayatol­lah Ali Khame­nei on Tues­day said six oth­er ne­go­ti­at­ing coun­tries want to lim­it Ir­an’s urani­um-en­rich­ment ca­pa­city to “10,000 sep­ar­at­ive work units, which is equi­val­ent to 10,000 cent­ri­fuges of the older type that we already have.” Tehran in­sists it only wants to re­fine urani­um to low levels for use in ci­vil­ian re­act­ors, but oth­er coun­tries sus­pect it wants an op­tion to pro­duce high­er-pur­ity ma­ter­i­al for weapons.

“Our of­fi­cials say we need 190,000 cent­ri­fuges,” Khame­nei said. “Per­haps this is not a need this year or in two years or five years, but this is the coun­try’s ab­so­lute need.”

Tehran is dis­cuss­ing the pos­sib­il­ity of lim­it­ing some of its nuc­le­ar activ­it­ies for a num­ber of years in ex­change for sanc­tions re­lief from China, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia, the United King­dom and the United States. The sides are push­ing to com­plete a deal by Ju­ly 20, when an in­ter­im atom­ic deal is sched­uled to ex­pire.

Former U.S. State De­part­ment of­fi­cial Mark Fitzpatrick said Khame­nei’s latest com­ment “con­firms” that Ir­an’s ne­go­ti­at­ors “are not au­thor­ized to ac­cept cut­backs to the en­rich­ment pro­gram.” The coun­try has de­ployed over 19,000 urani­um-en­rich­ment cent­ri­fuges to date, and is cur­rently pro­du­cing ci­vil­ian nuc­le­ar fuel in about 10,000 of the ma­chines.

Khame­nei ac­cused the oth­er gov­ern­ments of is­su­ing hol­low threats of mil­it­ary ac­tion against Ir­an’s atom­ic as­sets, Re­u­ters re­por­ted sep­ar­ately.

“They make it seem like Is­rael wants to at­tack, but Amer­ica is stop­ping it: the good cop, bad cop trick,” he said. “But I say out loud: the reas­on they are not at­tack­ing is be­cause it is too costly. The en­emy has no oth­er op­tion at its dis­pos­al but make threats and im­pose sanc­tions.”

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