Iran announces new centrifuges amid nuclear talks

Disagreement over the interpretation of the interim agreement puts nuclear talks at risk

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Iran is in the process of improving its capability to speed up uranium enrichment, it announced Thursday, in a move that could delay nuclear talks between Tehran and six world powers.

Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s nuclear chief, announced on Thursday that Iran is building a new round of centrifuges for uranium enrichment but were waiting for further testing before being mass produced.

Two officials familiar with Iran’s nuclear activities told the Associated Press on Friday that Iran is interpreting the provisional nuclear agreement to allow its centrifuge development.

As the new machines are being installed at a research section of one of the country’s enriching sites, the Islamic Republic argued it has a right to do so under the research and development provisions of the Nov. 24 Geneva accord which allows Iran to continue centrifuge research and development, said the officials.

The six powers have argued that installing any centrifuge that increases overall numbers, particularly a new model, violates Tehran’s commitment to freeze the amount and type of enriching machines at the agreed upon Nov. 24 levels, said the officials speaking on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the closed meetings.

However, the interim deal, paradoxically allows Iran to continue centrifuge research and development.

Tehran’s centrifuge announcement is seen as an attempt to maintain domestic credibility with Iranian hardliners who heavily criticize the nuclear talks and the provisional Nov. 24 deal.

The dispute over the discrepancy contributed to the decision to adjourn the talks in Geneva last Sunday, the officials said.

The debate over the interpretation of the Nov. 24 deal could delay talks past the previously envisaged January start and feed the already existing doubt on both sides of the table that the deal will fail.

While Iran has always insisted it is pursuing nuclear enrichment for non-lethal purposes, the United States and its allies have remained skeptical.

U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told the AP that the Geneva plan "makes very clear what Iran is and isn't allowed to do," adding Washington is ready to "vigilantly ensure" that the agreement is being implemented.

An adviser to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on Friday for direct talks with the United States. The announcement appeared to be an attempt by President Hassan Rouhani to reduce tension.

(With AP)

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