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Friday, October 27th 2006

Page 10N: Iran Steps Up Uranium Enrichment

When Drudge isn’t posting about Virginia Senatorial candidate Webb writing about a man sticking a boy’s privates in his mouth (which as The Irish Trojan has noted is a stupid point for the media to rally around), he’s linking to stories about Iran’s continued press forward with enrichment,

Iran has doubled its capacity to enrich uranium by successfully executing the process with a second network of centrifuges, a semiofficial news agency reported Friday, sending a defiant new message to the U.N. Security Council.

Council members are working on a draft resolution that would impose limited sanctions on the Islamic republic because of its refusal to cease enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for a civilian nuclear reactor or fissile material for a warhead.

Luckily our beret wearing allies have some strong words,

France’s Foreign Ministry called Iran’s expansion of its nuclear program a “negative signal” that should be taken to account at U.N. talks over possible sanctions.

A spokesman for the ministry, Jean-Baptiste Mattei, said the Iranian announcement was not a great surprise because the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, had said in August that Iran was developing new nuclear capacities.

“The door to negotiations is always open, but at the same time the priority goes to the negotiations for a U.N. Security Council resolution,” Mattei said at a news conference.

French President Jacques Chirac, meanwhile, expressed support for sanctions against Iran but insisted that they be temporary and reversible.

Better than the Russians at present though,

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said he didn’t “share concerns” about the launching of a second network of centrifuges, expressing confidence that the new centrifuges “are under the complete control of the International Atomic Energy Agency, for scientific research purposes.”

He also said the centrifuges were “completely empty, so to talk about enriched uranium or uranium for military use, is at the very least premature.”

The basis of his statement was unclear, however. The IAEA monitors both “cascades” of centrifuges, but they are not under its “complete control,” as Ivanov asserted. And – unlike Ivanov – the Iranian official cited by ISNA said the second network was no longer empty but enriching small amounts of uranium.

Other Russian officials also had shared previously shared the opinion of the United States and its western allies, Britain, France and Germany that even “dry testing” centrifuges was cause for concern.