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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 September 2007, 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Iran flexing muscles with nuclear claim
By Sadeq Saba
BBC Iranian affairs analyst


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (file photo)
The president's opponents saw the IAEA report as a sign of weakness
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has announced that his country is now operating 3,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel.

The statement follows a recent report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), saying Iran was actually short of reaching that goal.

The installation of 3,000 centrifuges has always been a medium-term target for Iran.

Iranian leaders had stated that they wanted to reach that target by the end of last March.

And, indeed, some Iranian officials announced in April that the target had been met.

But this is the first time that Mr Ahmadinejad has announced that Iran has reached this key goal in its nuclear programme.

His statement comes a few days after the IAEA report said Iran in fact had slowed down its nuclear activities and that it was well short of operating 3,000 centrifuges.

Reassurance

Mr Ahmadinejad's opponents interpreted the IAEA report as a sign of compromise and weakness by his government.

The aim of his defiant speech was to reassure his supporters that he was not giving in to Western pressure and that the country's nuclear programme was going ahead without hesitation.

In the same speech he strongly attacked Iran's previous reformist government of President Mohammad Khatami for making compromises with the West on the nuclear issue.

Mr Ahmadinejad's announcement that Iran has succeeded in operating 3,000 centrifuges is not necessarily scientifically precise - it may have been driven more by political considerations.




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