Iran has increased the number of active centrifuges enriching uranium for its nuclear program by 1,000, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an interview to Iran’s state-run media.
“There are currently 11,000 centrifuges active in enrichment facilities,” he was quoted as saying during a meeting with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and senior regime officials.
The figure is significantly higher than the 10,000 working centrifuges estimated for the Iranian nuclear program in a May International Atomic Energy Agency report, indicating that in the period when Iran was engaged in ultimately fruitless talks with the West over its nuclear program, the Islamic Republic was working to increase its uranium enrichment capability.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a lecture at the IDF’s National Security College on Wednesday that Israel would have to take “difficult and fateful decisions” in the struggle to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability.
“I am fully aware of the difficulties of preventative action, but it is clear to me that coping with the threat will be many times more complex, dangerous and costly, both in terms of human life and in terms of resources, than a preemptive strike,” said Barak.
The defense minister asserted that while international sanctions and diplomacy were working they would not be enough to ultimately stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. “The United States understands that Israel, and only Israel, is responsible for its fate,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters in Iran, voiced confidence that the Islamic Republic can beat the latest punitive measures aimed at blocking the country’s vital oil and banking industries over the disputed program.
“They (the West) explicitly say they need to increase pressures, tighten sanctions to force Iranian authorities to reconsider their calculations,” Khamenei said in comments broadcast on state television. “But a look at the facts leads us not only to avoid reconsidering our calculations, but to move on our intended path with greater confidence.”
The latest European Union sanctions against Iran’s vital oil industry came into effect on July 1, three days after the US tightened measures that prohibit international banks from completing oil transactions with Iranian banks. The moves, a response to Iran’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, further complicate the country’s ability to conduct trade abroad.
The US and its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop an atomic bomb, but Iran has denied the charges and says its nuclear program aims at producing electricity and radioisotopes used to treat cancer patients.
Khamenei also urged Iran’s politicians to show unity and avoid bickering in efforts to overcome the sanctions, which experts say have driven up the cost of imports by 20 to 30 percent.