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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Iran 'completes facility to build centrifuges'

Tehran plans to increase uranium-enrichment capacity if nuclear deal collapses after US exit

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during Friday prayers in Tehran, September 14, 2007. Reuters
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during Friday prayers in Tehran, September 14, 2007. Reuters

Iran has built a facility to create advanced centrifuges its nuclear chief said, as Tehran prepares to increase its uranium-enrichment capacity if the nuclear deal collapses after the United States exits.

In June, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said the facility at the Natanz nuclear plant would be finished within a month.

That statement came days after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini said he had ordered preparations to increase the country's uranium enrichment capacity if the nuclear agreement with world powers collapsed.

On Sunday, the official news agency IRNA quoted Mr Salehi as saying: "[Ayatollah Khamenei] had ordered us to set up and complete a very advanced hall for the construction of modern centrifuges, and this hall has now been fully equipped and set up."

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Mr Salehi said Iran's plans to build nuclear reactors for ships, while staying within the limits set by its atomic deal with major powers, was "advancing well but would take 10 to 15 years to complete".

"A third step [in reaction to the US withdrawal] might be to suspend some of the limitations within the nuclear agreement, for example on the volume and level of enrichment," Mr Salehi said.

"And the final scenario can be a complete exit from the nuclear accord, which I hope will never happen, with the help of [remaining signatories], because everyone would suffer," Mr Salehi added.

Iranian officials said they would decide whether to quit the 2015 nuclear deal after studying a planned European package of economic measures that could help offset US sanctions.

On Monday, a senior Iranian security official said Tehran will respond to any hostile action against the country and that the era of "hit and run" was over, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

Iran's relations with the United States have grown tense since Washington quit the nuclear deal with Tehran and reimposed sanctions, with the US administration warning it would exert "maximum pressure" on Iran.

"The era of hit and run is over in the world and any hostile measure against our country will be responded to by Tehran 10-fold. We are capable of protecting ourselves in every field," Tasnim quoted Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security council, as saying.