Feb 24, 2012
The Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, said the West's focus on Iran's nuclear program was a cover for western attempts to oust the clerical regime in Tehran, and implied he would use Russia's own military and political strength to avert a course it deems dangerous.
"Under the guise of trying to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction... they are attempting something else entirely and setting different goals -- regime change," news agencies have quoted Putin as saying today.
"We have such suspicions," said Putin. "And we are trying to take a stand that differs from the one they are trying to force on us... concerning the ways that the Iranian nuclear problem might develop."
New IAEA report acknowledges accelerated uranium enrichment
In the report to member states, seen by the Guardian, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found Iran had tripled its production rate of uranium enriched to the level of 20% over the past three month.
Much of the increase in production has taken place at an underground site known as Fordow, and the report's findings will further increase the international pressure on Iran at a time of already high tension,
Tehran says it needs the material for its research reactor, which produces medical isotopes, but western governments argue that its stock of 20% uranium brings it significantly closer to weapons grade fissile material.
The IAEA inspectors also found that Iran had stepped up the installation of centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment plant in Natanz. Over the past three months, 2600 new centrifuges have been brought into operation, spinning uranium gas.
The report found that Iran has now produced nearly five and a half metric tonnes of low enriched uranium - enriched to about 3.5% - and about 109kg of uranium enriched to 20%. If enriched further, to more than 90% purity, the total stockpile would be more than enough to make four nuclear warheads.
Iran says it has no intention of making weapons, and the report may not be enough for western countries, led by the US, the UK and France, to persuade Russia and China to take part in an escalation of sanctions.
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