Iran claims nuclear project breakthrough

Iran is developing an advanced centrifuge that would allow it to accelerate its controversial uranium enrichment programme, a senior official told state television yesterday.

Mohammad Saidi, the vice-president of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, made the claim a day after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran had ignored a United Nations ultimatum to end enrichment work.

A more sophisticated breed of centrifuge would allow scientists to speed up purification of uranium towards the 90 per cent level required for bomb-making. They recently achieved an initial enrichment level of 3.6 per cent - the purity required to generate electricity. "We have told the agency [IAEA] that we are studying and conducting research on different types of machines," Mr Saidi said. "We cannot limit ourselves when we have an enrichment programme."

His comments were supported by a television interview with Gholamreza Aghazadeh, Iran's nuclear chief.

"As for more advanced machines - we indeed have plans to develop such machines," he said. "Having the advanced type of centrifuges and the new technology enables one to multiply production."

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