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Iran to install new nuclear equipment at Natanz site
by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) Jan 31, 2013


Israel PM says Iran strike would have limited effect: report
Jerusalem (AFP) Jan 30, 2013 - Israel's premier Benjamin Netanyahu believes an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities could cause "significant damage" but only a US attack could halt their operations, a newspaper said on Wednesday.

According to the Maariv daily, Netanyahu told a visiting delegation from the American Jewish Committee that only US military action could completely halt Iran's nuclear programme, which Israel and much of the world believes is a guise for building a weapons capability.

And he also hinted that any US military activity ought to be carried out before Tehran finishes the process of enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, the paper said.

"The sanctions are only likely to stop Iran if there is a credible (military) threat over their head... and in order for it to be a credible threat, you need to mean it, meaning that if the sanctions don't work -- and they haven't until now -- you will use it," he said.

Referring to a military strike, Netanyahu described it as "a defined and specific mission that the United States is capable of carrying out perfectly whereas we are capable of causing (only) significant damage."

He also stressed the need to halt Iran's ongoing enrichment efforts.

"We must prevent the completion of the enrichment process," he said in a likely reference to the process of enriching uranium up to 20 percent, one step before military grade uranium.

Should Tehran complete that process, "Iran would have enough enriched material to build a bomb in a short time," he said.

He also said the window of opportunity to stop Iran through diplomatic and economic means was about to close and that 2013 would be a decisive year, Maariv said.

Israel has consistently refused to rule out a resort to military action to prevent Iran developing the capability to build a nuclear weapon.

But Tehran denies any such ambition, insisting its civilian nuclear programme is for peaceful power generation and medical purposes only.

Iran intends to install more modern equipment at Natanz, one of its main nuclear sites, according to a document seen by AFP on Thursday.

The UN atomic agency document said that Iran informed it in a letter dated January 23 that "centrifuge machines type IR2m will be used in Unit A-22" at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz.

The International Atomic Energy Agency replied in a letter dated January 29 asking for more information on the announcement, which comes despite international sanctions aimed at slowing Iran's nuclear programme.

Natanz in central Iran is currently used to enrich uranium, a process at the heart of the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear programme, mostly using older model IR-1 machines, which operate more slowly.

A Vienna diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity that the new machines would likely be used to enrich uranium to fissile purities of five percent.

Of greater concern than Natanz is Iran's Fordo site, which enriches uranium to 20-percent purities, significantly closer to the 90-percent level needed for a bomb.

"So far they are mostly only enriching to five percent at Natanz, so it would be a surprise if Iran came back and said it was for 20 percent," the diplomat said.

Enriched uranium can be used for peaceful purposes such as in atomic power stations -- Iran currently has one functioning plant -- but also, in highly-enriched form, for a nuclear bomb.

Because of concerns that Iran may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons, something it denies, numerous UN Security Council resolutions have called on Tehran to suspend all enrichment activities.

Several rounds of sanctions have been imposed on Iran aimed at preventing it procuring and developing technology for its nuclear activities.

Unilateral sanctions imposed in 2012 by the United States, the European Union and others have also targeted Iran's vital oil exports, leading to major economic problems.

The IAEA declined to comment on Thursday. The Vienna-based agency is due to release its latest quarterly updated on Iran's atomic activities on February.

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