Monday, April 17, 2006

New Iran Nuke Claim Causes Concern

The Wall Street Journal:
Iran's recent claim it was conducting research and tests on a more sophisticated type of nuclear-enrichment centrifuge could significantly speed the process of making fuel for either electrical plants or bombs, analysts familiar with the technology said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told students Wednesday that the Islamic republic was testing the P-2 centrifuge -- a more sophisticated type. A day earlier, he trumpeted Iran's success in enriching uranium using a less-sophisticated type of centrifuge.

"Our centrifuges are P-1 type. P-2, which has quadruple the capacity, now is under the process of research and test in the country," Mr. Ahmadinejad told the students in Khorasan in northeastern Iran. His statement was the first time Iran has said officially it was seeking to develop the more advanced centrifuges. READ MORE

Iran's move to enrich uranium has come in defiance of demands from the U.S., Europe and the United Nation's nuclear watchdog agency. The International Atomic Energy Agency is due to report to the U.N. Security Council on April 28 whether Iran has met its demand for a full halt to uranium enrichment. If Tehran has not complied, the council will consider the next step. The U.S. and Europe are pressing for sanctions against Iran, a step Russia and China have so far opposed.

The current centrifuges that Iran has used to do small-scale enrichment are considered an inferior model, said David Albright, a former U.N. inspector and head of the Institute for Science and International Security.

But Iran also is known to have received plans for the German-made P-2 centrifuges through a black-market network run by A.Q. Khan, considered the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb. The P-2 centrifuges, more sophisticated and reliable, presumably would make it easier for Iran to ramp up the production of enriched uranium.

The U.N. has demanded Iran give up uranium enrichment amid accusations from the U.S. and Europe that the country seeks to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies those claims, saying the aim of its nuclear program is to generate electricity.

Iran Brushes Off Talk of U.S. Attack

Iran's former president said Monday that talk of a U.S. military attack on Iran was overblown because it would be "too dangerous" and no Persian Gulf countries would join forces with the U.S.

U.S. media reports have said the U.S. was developing contingency plans to use military force against Iran if it continues to challenge attempts by the West and the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency to force it to abandon its uranium enrichment program. The Bush administration has said it had a "number of tools," including a military option, if Tehran did not cease uranium enrichment activities, which can create fuel for a bomb.

"Reports about plans for an American attack on Iran are incorrect," former President Hashemi Rafsanjani said in an appearance before Kuwait's parliament. "We are certain that Americans will not attack Iran because the consequences would be too dangerous."

On Sunday, he said he believed the U.S. was "incapable of taking a risk or engaging in a new war in the region without discussing the subject seriously." Mr. Rafsanjani also said he was certain that Arab countries in the Persian Gulf would not join the U.S. But Iran's allies in the region were voicing their concern.

Kuwaiti lawmaker Mohammed al-Saqer told reporters Monday that "Iranians are escalating every day and this is terrifying not only for the international community but for the region." "We feel real concern although our ties with Iran are good and Iran is a brotherly country," said Mr. Al-Saqer, head of the parliament's foreign relations committee.

Iran Announces $50 Million Aid to Palestinians

Meanwhile, Iran said Sunday it would give the Palestinian Authority $50 million in aid, moving in for the first time with money after the U.S. and Europe cut off funding to the Hamas-led government.

Iran has long had close ties to the Islamic militant movement Hamas and is believed to have given money to the movement in the past -- though the Shiite clerical-led government in Tehran has denied that, saying its support has only been moral. But the new money, if given, would be the first time Iran has provided funds to the Palestinian Authority, the government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that until now was led by the moderate Fatah movement, which carried out peace negotiations with Israel, a policy shunned by Iran.

Tehran had previously promised to help the Palestinians if other international funds were cut off, but Sunday's remarks were the first time Iran has specified an amount. Mr. Ahmadinejad, called for other Islamic nations to give money as he met with Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal.