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War with Iran

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Kristina
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« on: January 30, 2007, 01:43:33 am »

Bush vows firm response to Iranian military actions
POSTED: 1:04 p.m. EST, January 29, 2007

 
Story Highlights
• If Iran steps up military actions in Iran "we will respond firmly," the president said
• White House says it would welcome Iran playing a "constructive role"
• Iranian ambassador to Iraq says Iran is ready to help improve security in Iraq
• Washington pressing Iran to stop nuclear program, supporting terrorism

 
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Deeply distrustful of Iran, President Bush said Monday "we will respond firmly" if Tehran escalates its military actions in Iraq and threatens American forces or Iraqi citizens.

Bush's warning was the latest move in a bitter and more public standoff between the United States and Iran. The White House expressed skepticism about Iran's plans to greatly expand its economic and military ties with Iraq. The United States has accused Iran of supporting terrorism in Iraq and supplying weapons to kill American forces.

"If Iran escalates its military actions in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and - or innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly," Bush said in an interview with National Public Radio.

The president's comments reinforced earlier statements from the White House. (Watch how Washington is trying to curb Iran's growing influence javascript:cnnVideo('play','javascript://cnnVideo('play','/video/world/2007/01/29/starr.iraq.dossier.reut','2007/02/12');','2007/01/29'); javascript:cnnVideo('play','javascript://cnnVideo('play','/video/world/2007/01/29/starr.iraq.dossier.reut','2007/02/12');','2007/01/29')Wink

"If Iran wants to quit playing a destructive role in the affairs of Iraq and wants to play a constructive role, we would certainly welcome that," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. But, he said, "We've seen little evidence to date (of constructive activities) and frankly all we have seen is evidence to the contrary."

Sharply at odds over Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program, Washington and Tehran are arguing increasingly about Iraq. American troops in Iraq have been authorized to kill or capture Iranian agents deemed to be a threat. "If you're in Iraq and trying to kill our troops, then you should consider yourself a target," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week.

Ambassador: Iran stepping up efforts in Iraq
Iran's plans in Iraq were outlined by Iranian Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qumi in an interview with The New York Times. He said Iran was prepared to offer Iraqi government forces training, equipment and advisers for what he called "the security fight," the newspaper reported. He said that in the economic area, Iran was ready to assume major responsibility for the reconstruction of Iraq.

"We have experience of reconstruction after war," the ambassador said, referring to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. "We are ready to transfer this experience in terms of reconstruction to the Iraqis."

Johndroe said the Bush administration was looking at what the ambassador had to say.
The White House says there has been growing evidence over the last several months that Iran is supporting terrorists inside Iraq and is a major supplier of bombs and other weapons used to target U.S. forces. In recent weeks, U.S. forces have detained a number of Iranian agents in Iraq.

"It makes sense that if somebody is trying to harm our troops or stop us from achieving our goal, or killing innocent citizens in Iraq, that we will stop them," Bush said on Friday.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/01/29/us.iran.ap/index.html

« Last Edit: February 08, 2007, 01:54:02 am by Kristina » Report Spam   Logged

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Kristina
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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2007, 01:44:58 am »

U.S. general: Anbar insurgents mostly Iraqis
POSTED: 2:37 p.m. EST, January 29, 2007

Story Highlights
• Insurgents fighting U.S.-led forces are loyal to al Qaeda, commander says
• U.S.: Rebels want to create an Islamic state similar to Afghan Taliban
• Bush's Iraq plan will send about 4,000 Marines to the region
• Sectarian fighting not the threat in Anbar as it is in Baghdad

 
 
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Most insurgents who are battling U.S.-led forces in Iraq's Anbar province are local Iraqis loyal to al Qaeda, and not foreign fighters, the U.S. commander in the region said Monday.

During a video news conference from the provincial town of Falluja, Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer said the insurgents intend to create a strict Islamic state, similar to Afghanistan's Taliban regime before the U.S.-led invasion toppled it in 2001.

They want "a caliphate state out here," he said. "They want to turn back the hands of time. It is antithetical to progress and, again, any positive future."

Although sectarian violence is not the threat in Anbar that it is in the capital Baghdad to the east, some 4,000 Marines will be sent to the region under President Bush's plan to quell violence in the nation, Zilmer said.

"What these additional Marines (will) provide to us is an ability to reinforce the success that we've seen in the last couple of months," the general said. "It allows us to get to some of the areas that we haven't been able to establish the presence we would have liked."

He added that the extra forces "will provide that additional time for us to develop the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police, which, as I said, at the end of the day are essential to the long-term security and stability in Anbar province."

The province does not "have quite the sectarian divide that you see in Baghdad," because residents are more than 90 percent Sunni Muslim, Zilmer said.

Sectarian killings between Shiites and Sunnis are common in the capital. Bullet-riddled bodies, often showing signs of torture are found in the streets virtually every day.

Although local insurgents make up the lion's share of fighters in Anbar, Zilmer said there are "certainly foreign fighters who are part and parcel" of day-to-day rebel operations.

He said foreign fighters are not "the overwhelming driving force that causes al Qaeda to function out here."
But Zilmer did say that Anbar's Sunni insurgents are "largely led by al Qaeda" and take their direction from the larger al Qaeda organization, which he described as "absolutely ruthless."

U.S. working with Anbar tribes
Since he took command of the region in February of 2006, Zilmer said he and the 30,000 U.S. troops under his command have achieved success through strong alliances with local sheiks and tribes who oppose the al Qaeda forces.

"After a year of watching this mindless destruction and violence and anarchy, it's finally settling in to many of the people in Anbar ... there's no future with al Qaeda," Zilmer said.

Those successes include completing more than 300 reconstruction projects worth over $50 million, Zilmer said.
When asked if he was concerned about whether his alliance with tribal leaders might alienate other tribes, Zilmer said local leaders support Anbar's fledgling provincial government, which he described as "infantile" but making progress.

Zilmer said the alliance with tribal leaders helped U.S. forces to take control of Ramadi, once a center of insurgent activity.

While parts of Ramadi are still "very dangerous," Zilmer said U.S.-led forces "control the entire city" following an operation launched last summer to restore security to the city west of Baghdad.

"We are beginning to see the signs of shopkeepers returning back to their shops," he said. "We see efforts to begin the reconstruction efforts, whether that's repairing the electrical capacity of the city (or) cleaning up."

He said because of the "growing police presence in Ramadi," U.S. forces can freely travel in the city despite some roaming bands of insurgents.

"If we need to go any place in that city, we will go there," he said.
"The enemy still has the ability to move around (Ramadi) and he will go where we are not and we understand that," Zilmer explained. "But, if we must go someplace then, again, there is no challenge to us that prevents us to go anywhere we need to go."

Other areas of Anbar are lacking in police presence and Zilmer said there are still some 3,500 positions yet to be filled for the Iraqi police force in the province.

He also said there are "many slots out here available for the development of the Iraqi army forces."
http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/01/29/anbar.security/index.html

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Kristina
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« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2007, 11:15:00 pm »

Former military chiefs urge talks with Iran

POSTED: 11:00 p.m. EST, February 3, 2007
Story Highlights• 2 retired generals, retired admiral say war with Iran would be "disastrous"
• They air opinions in a letter to London's Sunday Times newspaper
• U.S. defense secretary says Washington not planning for war with Iran



Retired U.S. Marine Corps General Joseph Hoar is one of 3 former military chiefs who wrote a letter about Iran.


LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Three former senior U.S. military officials warn that any military action against Iran would have "disastrous consequences" and urged Washington to hold immediate and unconditional talks with Tehran.

The Bush administration has increased the regularity and vehemence of its accusations against Iran, prompting speculation it could be laying the ground for military attack against the Islamic state.

Washington has also sent a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf, a move seen as a warning to Iran, which the United States accuses of seeking atomic arms and fueling instability in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. Iran denies the charges.

In a letter to London's Sunday Times newspaper, the three former U.S. military leaders said attacking Iran "would have disastrous consequences for security in the region, coalition forces in Iraq and would further exacerbate regional and global tensions," they wrote.

"The current crisis must be resolved through diplomacy," they said.

The letter was signed by retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, a former military assistant to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Hoar, a former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command; and retired Navy Vice Adm. Jack Shanahan, a former director of the Center for Defense Information.

They urged the U.S. government to "engage immediately in direct talks with the government of Iran without preconditions.

"There is time available to talk, we must ensure that we use it," they said.

The three men have joined previous petitions calling on the Bush administration to change course in its policy on Iran.

Washington broke ties with Iran in 1980. It has offered to hold direct talks with Iran but only once Tehran halts its drive to produce nuclear fuel through uranium enrichment.

Iran, which says it wants to enrich uranium to make nuclear reactor fuel, not bombs, has refused.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Friday said Washington was not planning for war with Iran, but again accused Tehran of supplying bombs for deadly attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq.

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/02/03/iran.warning.reut/index.html
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Luke Hodiak
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« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2007, 11:22:36 pm »

Iran isn't a threat, it is simple as that.

They are seven to ten years away from building a nuclear weapon, and there is no solid evidence that the Iranian government is behind the attacks on the American troops. The Bush Administration has tried repeatedly to manufacture a connection, but it simply isn't there.

The Neocons in the Bush administration are trying to pick a fight with Iran, but that's irresponsible.  These are the same people that lobbied for war with Iraq and they are using all the same tactics:  shaky evidence and a lot of propaganda.

People who claim to care about the troops should think long and hard before throwing your support behind this one. The American military is already stretched thin and in no shape to fight a third war at this point. Ahmerdinajad doesn't really control Iraq anyway, and his party was recently dealt a severe setback in the last elections.  He isn't very popular in Iran right now and would probably be defeated himself if the elections were held today.  Attack the guy and you turn the Iranian people against you and get him more support. This is one of those cases where the situation will most likely right itself, provided our leaders don't repeat the mistake of being too trigger happy.
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Volitzer
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« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2007, 07:11:44 am »

They got the 3rd most stock pile of oil wells in the world.  The Bilderbergs will fabricate another "terrorist act"  Wink so that America can set up imperial operations there as well. Angry

My God I never thought America would turn into such an imperialist  corporatocracy.  If there is a World War 3 I honestly believe that America will start it.   Sad Sad Sad Sad Sad
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Anassa
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« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2007, 12:41:01 am »

A  very long article but interesting as an overview

The Redirection

By Seymour M. Hersh

Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?

02/25/07 "New Yorker" -- - Issue of 2007-03-05

A STRATEGIC SHIFT

In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17173.htm
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Volitzer
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« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2007, 01:02:02 am »

If the Bush Administration, under Bilderberg pressure, invades Iran then all it it will do is create more unity in the Middle-East against Americans.  Hezbollah, and al-Queda whom normally have nothing to do with one another will unite against the USA and the Khazars of Israel.

The question is do the Democrats have enough clout in Congress to STOP future Bilderberg imperial ambitions??
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Psycho
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« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2007, 11:14:47 am »

My favorite Iran-related headline recently is:

UN calls US intel on Iraq unreliable

Guess why?

Most of the info is in English, not in Persian, their native language.

Same as evidence of Iraqi weapons supposedly being used by insurgents: stamped (in English)  MADE IN IRAN.

Gee, could these bozos be anymore transparent?

Wonder if any of this is in Dick Cheney's handwriting? Sad
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Kristina
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« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2007, 10:13:01 pm »

U.S. show of force in Persian Gulf
POSTED: 9:51 a.m. EDT, March 27, 2007


Story Highlights
• U.S. Navy in largest show of force in Persian Gulf since 2003 invasion of Iraq
• Two strike groups of U.S. warships take part and 100 U.S. warplanes
• Exercises come four days after Iran captured 15 British sailors and marines

 
 
ABOARD THE USS JOHN C. STENNIS IN THE GULF (AP) -- The U.S. Navy on Tuesday began its largest demonstration of force in the Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, deploying two aircraft carriers and conducting simulated aerial attacks.

The maneuvers, involving 15 U.S. warships and more than a hundred planes, were certain to increase tension with Iran, which has frequently condemned the U.S. military presence off its coastline.

The exercises began only four days after Iran captured 15 British sailors and marines whom it accused of straying into Iranian waters near the Gulf. Britain and the U.S. Navy have insisted the British sailors were operating in Iraqi waters. (Full story)

Aboard the carrier USS John C. Stennis, F/A-18 fighter jets rocketed off the deck in one of a dozen rapid-fire training sorties against enemy shipping and aircraft.

"These maneuvers demonstrate our flexibility and capability to respond to threats to maritime security," said U.S. Navy Lt. John Perkins, 32, of Louisville, Kentucky, as the Stennis cruised about 80 miles off the United Arab Emirates.

"They're showing we can keep the maritime environment safe and the vital link to the global economy open."
At U.S. 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kevin Aandahl said the U.S. maneuvers were not organized in response to the capture of the British sailors -- nor were they meant to threaten the Islamic Republic, whose navy operates in the same waters.

He declined to specify when the Navy planned the exercises, but added they would last several days.
Aandahl said the U.S. warships would stay out of Iranian territorial waters, which extend 12 miles off the Iranian coast.

A French naval strike group, led by the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, was operating simultaneously just outside the Gulf. But the French ships were supporting the NATO forces in Afghanistan and not taking part in the U.S. maneuvers, Aandahl said.

Overall, the exercises involve more than 10,000 U.S. personnel on warships and aircraft making simulated attacks on enemy aircraft and shipping, hunting enemy submarines and finding mines.

"What it should be seen as by Iran or anyone else is that it's for regional stability and security," Aandahl said. "These ships are just another demonstration of that. If there's a destabilizing effect, it's Iran's behavior."

The U.S. drills were the latest in a series of American and Iranian war games. Iran conducted naval maneuvers in November and April, while in October the U.S. Navy led a Gulf training exercise aimed at blocking nuclear smuggling.

In January, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Stennis strike group was being sent to the Mideast as a warning to Iran that it should not misjudge America's resolve in the region.

Iran has grown increasingly assertive in the Gulf as the U.S. military has become bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iranian officials have publicly called on America's Gulf Arab allies to shut down U.S. military bases and join Iran in a regional security alliance.

Gulf Arab leaders have grown increasingly uneasy with the aggressive U.S. stance toward Iran, believing it could provoke an unwanted war that could bring attacks on their own soil. But none has shown interest in an alliance with Iran.

In February, then 5th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh said he had assured Arab allies that Washington was trying to avoid "a mistake that boils over into war" with Iran.

The USS Stennis strike group, with more than 6,500 sailors and marines, entered the Gulf late Monday or early Tuesday along with the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam, the Navy said.

The Stennis, which had been supporting the Afghan war, joined the strike group led by the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first time two U.S. aircraft carriers have operated in the Gulf since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Aandahl said. The Eisenhower was operating off the coast of Somalia in January and February.

Each carrier hosts an air wing of F/A-18 Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft, S-3 Viking anti-submarine and refuelers, and E-2C Hawkeye airborne command-and-control craft.

Also taking part were guided-missile destroyers USS Anzio, USS Ramage, USS O'Kane, USS Mason, USS Preble and USS Nitze; and minesweepers USS Scout, USS Gladiator and USS Ardent.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/03/27/us.gulf.ap/index.html

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Kristina
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« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2007, 10:14:35 pm »

Blair warns Iran of 'different phase'
POSTED: 10:28 a.m. EDT, March 27, 2007


Story Highlights
• Iran: 15 detained Britons are healthy and being treated in humane fashion
• UK's Blair says prepared for "different phase" if diplomacy fails to free the 15
• Brits were inspecting vessel suspected of smuggling, U.S. official says
• Iran says personnel were in Iranian waters; Britain says seized in Iraqi waters


 
 
LONDON, England (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said his country is prepared to move to a "different phase" if negotiations fail to free 15 sailors and marines being held by Iran.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards captured the group Friday, while it was conducting what Britain called an inspection of a merchant vessel near the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab, at the northern end of the Persian Gulf.

Britain said the Royal Navy crew were seized in the Iraqi part of the waterway, where the border with Iran is disputed. Iran however says the group was in Iranian waters.

In an interview on GMTV on Tuesday Blair said: "I hope we manage to get them (the Iranian government) to realize they have to release them. If not, then this will move into a different phase."

Asked what that meant, Blair said: "Well, we will just have to see, but what they should understand is that we cannot have a situation where our servicemen and women are seized when actually they are in Iraqi waters under a U.N. mandate, patrolling perfectly rightly and in accordance with that mandate, and then effectively captured and taken to Iran."

Blair's spokesman said later the prime minister did not mean Iranian diplomats would be expelled or military action was likely.

His office did say though that officials may have to make public evidence proving the Britons were seized in Iraqi -- not Iranian -- waters, if there is no swift release of the sailors.

"We want to resolve this quickly without having a public confrontation with them, but as the prime minister said we want to resolve it. If we cannot resolve it quickly, then maybe we have to be more explicit," said the spokesman.

Earlier Tuesday, Iran said the 15 sailors and marines were healthy and being treated in a humane fashion.
"They are in completely good health. Rest assured that they have been treated with humanitarian and moral behavior," Mohammad Ali Hosseini, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Hosseini said the one woman in the group had complete privacy. "Definitely all ethics have been observed," he said.
The official declined to say where the marines were being held and repeated that their case was under investigation.
"The case should follow procedures," Hosseini said. "Media hyperbole will not help (speed things up)."
Meanwhile on Tuesday the U.S. Navy started its largest show of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, led by a pair of aircraft carriers and backed by warplanes off the coast of Iran.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kevin Aandahl told AP the maneuvers were not organized in response to the capture of the British sailors -- nor were they meant to threaten the Islamic Republic, whose navy operates in the same waters. (Full story)

Sailors questioned
Hard-liners in Iran have urged the government to charge the 15 marines and sailors with espionage and put them on trial.

No official word has emerged on whether Iran's government will do so.
But, according to AP, Iran has begun questioning the sailors and marines.
"It should become clear whether their entry was intentional or unintentional. After that is clarified, the necessary decision will be made," AP quoted Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehzi Mostafavi as saying.

Competing claims
The group was part of a boarding party from the frigate HMS Cornwall, which was on routine patrol to prevent smuggling, Britain's Ministry of Defense said. (Location of incident)

The vessel was intercepted on suspicion of smuggling automobiles, a U.S. military official who monitors the region told CNN. The official insisted on anonymity because the incident did not involve American forces.

Britain insists the group was in Iraqi waters, a claim Iraq supports; Iran insists it was in Iranian waters.
Competing claims on the waterway, which provides Iraq's only outlet to the Gulf, was one of the causes of the 1980-88 war between Iran and Iraq. (Read about the contested waterway)

The incident could escalate an already fraught relationship between Iran and the West.
On Saturday, the U.N. Security Council of Saturday agreed to tougher sanctions against Iran for its refusal to meet U.N. demands that it halt uranium enrichment. Many in the West fear the country's nuclear program is not for power generation but for arms making, a claim Iran denies. (Full story)

Iran's semi-official FARS News Agency reported the same day that the captives were taken to Tehran to explain their "aggressive behavior," and that they had confessed to trespassing into Iranian waters.

This is not the first such incident. In 2004, Iran stopped three British boats and seized eight Royal Navy Sailors and six Royal Marines. The Iranian Foreign Ministry said at the time the three boats had crossed into Iran's territorial waters, and the detained servicemen appeared on Iranian television blindfolded.

They were released after Iran said it determined they had mistakenly crossed into Iran's waters, a claim Britain never accepted.

CNN's Aneesh Raman contributed to this report.
Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/03/27/iran.uk.sailors/index.html

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Kristina
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« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2007, 08:59:38 pm »

Iran expands uranium enrichment effort By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer
Mon Apr 9, 6:12 PM ET
 


NATANZ, Iran -  Iran announced a dramatic expansion of uranium enrichment Monday, saying it has begun operating 3,000 centrifuges — nearly 10 times the previously known number — in defiance of U.N. demands it halt its nuclear program or face increased sanctions.


 
U.S. experts say 3,000 centrifuges are in theory enough to produce a nuclear weapon, perhaps within a year. But they doubted Iran really had so many up and running, a difficult technical feat given the country's spotty success with a much smaller number.


Instead, the announcement may aim to increase support at home amid growing criticism of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and to boost Iran's hand with the West by presenting its program as established, said Michael Levi, a nonproliferation expert at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.

"From a political perspective, it's more important to have (3,000 centrifuges) in place than to have them run properly," Levi told The Associated Press. "We have an unfortunate habit to take Iran at its word when they make scary announcements."

The White House and Europe criticized the latest announcement.

"Iran continues to defy the international community and further isolate itself by expanding its nuclear program, rather than suspending uranium enrichment," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

Iran is known to have had 328 centrifuges operating at its Natanz enrichment facility in central Iran. For months, it has been saying it plans to launch an expanded program of 3,000, likely to be set up in a large underground area at Natanz to protect them from air strikes.

"I declare that as of today, our dear country has joined the nuclear club of nations and can produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale," Ahmadinejad said in a speech during a ceremony at Natanz marking the one-year anniversary of the first successful enrichment of uranium there.

His comments suggested Iran was able to produce enough enriched uranium to fuel a nuclear reactor consistently, but he did not announce the start of the 3,000 centrifuges.

Asked by reporters at the ceremony if Iran has begun injecting uranium gas into 3,000 centrifuges for enrichment, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani replied, "Yes." He did not say specifically whether all were working.

In the enrichment process, uranium gas is pumped into centrifuges, which spin and purify the gas. Enriched to a low degree, the result is fuel for a reactor, but to a high degree it creates the material for a nuclear warhead.

The United States and its allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

The announcement was a strong show of defiance of the        United Nations, which imposed limited sanctions in December and strengthened them slightly last month because of Iran's refusal to suspend enrichment. The        U.N. Security Council has set a deadline of late May for Iran to halt the program, warning it will gradually ratchet up the punishment.

Larijani warned that if the U.N. imposes further sanctions, Iran may reconsider how much it cooperates with the U.N. nuclear watchdog group under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The        International Atomic Energy Agency has been conducting inspections at Natanz and other nuclear sites.

"The European side has made the NPT ineffective by its behavior, but we are not interested in a such a thing. But when we face their harsh attitude, there is a possibility of making another decision under the pressure of the parliament," Larijani was quoted as saying on the state broadcasting company's Web site.

The Iranian parliament last year gave the government permission to reduce cooperation with the IAEA in case of sanctions.

The Vienna-based IAEA had no immediate comment on Monday's announcement.

The move showed Iran was "definitively going in the wrong direction," said the Foreign Ministry in Germany, which currently holds the        European Union presidency.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he hoped Iran would "engage in dialogue. ... It is very important for any member country to fully comply with the Security Council resolution."

Larijani repeated Iran's stance that it is open to negotiations with the West and is willing to offer assurances that its program is peaceful. But he said the West must accept its nuclear program as a fact, rejecting a halt in enrichment as a precondition to talks.

So far, sanctions have been limited to a freeze of assets of some Iranian companies linked to nuclear and missile programs and a call for nations to ban travel by 15 Iranian security and government officials.

But Gen. Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general who is on the U.N. list for travel restrictions, returned on Monday from a six-day visit to Russia and boasted his trip showed "the ineffectiveness of the resolution." Moscow confirmed the visit and said it was not obliged by the sanctions resolution to ban him from travel.

The ceremonies at Natanz appeared aimed at drumming up support at home for Iran's position in the nuclear confrontation with the West. Across Iran, school bells rang on Monday to mark the "national day of nuclear energy."

Iran is also facing bitterness from Britain and the United States over its 13-day detention of 15 British sailors and marines. The 15 seized by Revolutionary Guards off the Iraqi coast were released on Wednesday. After returning home, they said they were put under psychological pressure by their captors to force them to "confess" to being in Iranian waters when captured, angering many in Britain.

The British government expressed concern over Iran's announcement Monday and called on it to suspend enrichment immediately.

"The international community stands together in ensuring that Iran does not develop the means to acquire nuclear weapons," the British Foreign Office said.

David Albright, a former U.N. nuclear inspector, said 3,000 centrifuges would be enough to build a nuclear warhead within a year.

But "it would be very hard to believe" that Iran has been able to enlarge its centrifuge cascade so dramatically, he said. "It all hinges on whether Iran will be able to get the machines working together" at a constant rate.

Levi said Iran has only been able to run its two small cascades of 164 centrifuges "perhaps 20 percent of the time."

Both Levi and Albright said 3,000 centrifuges could not produce enough fuel to keep a single reactor going.

"Iran would need approximately 25,000 of its centrifuges operating at one time to produce enough fuel for a single light water reactor," Levi said.

___

AP reporter Sarah DiLorenzo contributed to this report from New York.

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