President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is increasing his country's nuclear potential by installing 6,000 additional centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment plant, in open defiance of the UN Security Council.
Speaking on the day which has become known as National Day of Nuclear Technology since Iran announced that it had mastered the enrichment process in 2006, President Ahmadinejad said: "We have started the installation of 6,000 new centrifuges."
When up and running, the additional centrifuges could produce 40kg of bomb-grade uranium in a year.
The installation of the centrifuges is not illegal as long as the uranium enrichment – which can technically lead to the eventual production of weapons grade fuel – is for peaceful purposes. But Iran has failed to persuade the UN that this is the case. The Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions in a vain attempt to coerce the Iranian government into halting uranium enrichment.
Yesterday, the big powers on the council reacted in different ways. The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, warned that Iran faced "continued isolation" and urged it to accept a "very generous set of incentives" put forward by European nations. But the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said "new positive proposals" were needed to coax Iran back to the negotiating table.
Iran insists on its right to a fuel cycle on Iranian soil, which until now has been rejected by the West amid fears that the Iranian government intends to develop a "break-out" weapons capability.