TEHRAN, April 9 (Reuters) – Iran announced on Friday it had developed faster centrifuges for uranium enrichment, signalling determination to press on with its nuclear work despite possible new U.N. sanctions sought by U.S. President Barack Obama.
Obama acknowledged that sanctions would not necessarily shift Iran’s behaviour, but said sustained world pressure could eventually prompt it to revise its nuclear calculations.
The head of the Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would unveil the new “third generation” centrifuges later on Friday. “Iran will demonstrate third generation centrifuges today which have a separation power of 10, 6 times that of the first generation,” Ali Akbar Salehi said at a speech marking Iran’s annual national nuclear day, according to a text of his speech given to Reuters in advance.
The centrifuges Iran is using now are adapted from a 1970s design and have been prone to breakdowns. Tehran is known to have been testing various new models for years.
It was not immediately clear when the new machines would be introduced into full-scale enrichment, something analysts say would be a significant step.
Western powers are seeking the support of Russia and China for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran.
Obama, who hosts a nuclear security summit next week, wants them to back further measures to deter Iran from pursuing what the West believes is a covert drive to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says its programme has only peaceful purposes.
Obama said there was no guarantee the sanctions that could be instituted now would automatically alter Iranian behaviour. “The history of the Iranian regime, like the North Korean regime is that you know, you apply international pressure on these countries, sometimes they choose to change behaviour, sometimes they don’t,” he told ABC’s “Good Morning America”.
Obama spoke to ABC on Thursday after signing a landmark nuclear treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
The two men also pledged greater cooperation to persuade Iran to give up its uranium enrichment program.
Russia, along with China, long resisted calls for tougher sanctions on Iran, but now chides Tehran for ignoring offers made by world powers aimed at defusing the nuclear issue. “I think it’s an enormous shift and a signal that Russia, like the United States, recognises that unless we can get all countries to start abiding by certain rules of the road, and right now, our biggest concerns are obviously Iran and North Korea,” the U.S. president said. “If we are consistent and steady in applying international pressure … over time, Iran, which is not a stupid regime, which is very attentive and watching what’s happening in the international community, will start making a different set of cost-benefit analyses about whether or not pursuing nuclear weapons makes sense for them,” Obama said.
Iran has shown few signs so far of bending to international calls for it to curb its nuclear programme.
A hardline cleric said the Islamic Republic was counting on its “allies around the globe” to retaliate against any military strike by the United States on its nuclear sites.
Ahmad Khatami, an Ahmadinejad loyalist, said Washington would run into a quagmire if it attacked — an option Obama has not ruled out to stop Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb. “If America makes a crazy move, its interests will be endangered by Iran’s allies around the globe,” Khatami, a member of Iran’s powerful Assembly of Experts, said at Friday prayers.
The United States and Israel say Iran finances militant groups such as the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement and Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas, as well as militias in Iraq. A Hezbollah official told Reuters last month: “Any attack on Iran could ignite the whole region.” Iran’s military commander on Thursday threatened reprisals against U.S. troops in the Middle East if America attacked. The same day, Ahmadinejad said he would rather see sanctions imposed than have to beg to avoid them. He was responding after Obama said he expected an early agreement on “tough” sanctions.