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Tehran Testing New Uranium Centrifuges, Rouhani Tells Iranians in Malaysia

Aminah Farid and Lex Radz
Kuala Lumpur
2019-12-19
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (second from left) walks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (center, right) after they met on the sidelines of the Kuala Lumpur Summit in Malaysia, Dec. 19, 2019.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (second from left) walks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (center, right) after they met on the sidelines of the Kuala Lumpur Summit in Malaysia, Dec. 19, 2019.
AP

Iran is testing new and advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges, President Hassan Rouhani said, the state-run Iranian News Agency (IRNA) quoted him as saying before he used an Islamic summit in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday as a platform to slam Washington for imposing sanctions against his country.

Rouhani made the statement on Wednesday after Iran announced last month that it was doubling the number of advanced centrifuges it operates, linking the decision with U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to withdraw from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

“We have had great achievements and today, Iranian new IR-6 centrifuges are working and models IR-9 are currently being tested,” IRNA quoted Rouhani as telling Iranian expatriates in the Malaysian capital, where he arrived on Wednesday to attend a three-day summit that aims to discuss issues affecting Muslims worldwide.

The IR-6 and IR-9 centrifuges can produce enriched uranium multiple times faster than the first-generation IR-1, experts say.

Meanwhile in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday described Iranian leaders as “kleptocrats,” as he accused them of committing injustices and human rights violations in their country.

“I have a message for the leaders of the regime,” Pompeo told a gathering of Iranian immigrants in the American capital, “if you seek to recover respect from your people and from the world … If you seek stability and prosperity for a once great nation … You must respect the commitments that you have made. You must respect human rights.”

Pompeo did not mention Iran’s nuclear program, but said the street protests in Iran, which started and accelerated in November, signaled “that the Iranian people have just had enough.”

Early this month, Tehran acknowledged for the first time that its security forces shot and killed demonstrators who were holding protests across the country over the sharply spiking price of gasoline.

Amnesty International believes the unrest that began in November and the crackdown that followed killed at least 208 people across the country.

“Iran’s human rights violations are worse than unacceptable,” Pompeo said. “They’re evil, and they’re wrong.”

Iran’s move to use advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges could potentially violate the landmark agreement that Tehran signed four years ago, according to analysts. But by using the advanced centrifuges, the nation also slashed the one year that nuclear experts estimate Iran would need to produce enough material for nuclear weapons, should it decide to build one.

As part of the 159-page nuclear deal called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which Iran signed with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – plus Germany in July 2015, Tehran was limited to enrich uranium using only 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges.

But on Nov. 4, Iran announced that it had a prototype centrifuge that worked 50 times faster than those allowed under the agreement.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the Kuala Lumpur Summit, Dec. 19, 2019. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the Kuala Lumpur Summit, Dec. 19, 2019. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

In November, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told reporters in Tehran that the country now held more than 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) of low-enriched uranium and had started producing 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of the uranium each day, from its previous capacity of about 1 pound daily.

Iran has repeatedly denied that it was planning to “weaponize” its nuclear program, saying it was using the technology for peaceful purposes. The deal would limit Tehran to 300 kilograms (661 pounds).

Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal on May 8, 2018 as he announced that he would re-impose sanctions on Iran’s oil sector that had been lifted as part of the agreement.

“We cannot prevent an Iranian bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement,” Trump said in justifying his decision. “Therefore, I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.”

While addressing the summit in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, Rouhani accused Washington of “economic terrorism” and imposing its “illegitimate demands” on other nations, as he called on the Muslim world to join forces to end America’s efforts at ‘arrogant domination” of the global economy.

“The Muslim world should be designing measures to save it from the domination of the United States dollar and the American financial regime,” he told delegates at the summit, which was also attended by Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamid Al-Thani.

Rouhani also urged other Muslim nations to enter trade agreements using each other currencies, as he proposed an Islamic banking system and the creation of a Muslim cryptocurrency.

Hadi Azmi in Kuala Lumpur also contributed to this report.

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