29 March 2004
Brushing aside all the international obstacles placed in its path, Tehran is clearly advancing full steam ahead in the race for a nuclear device. Sunday, March 28, the International Atomic Energy Agency learned that Irans freeze on its uranium enrichment was at an end when the head of Irans nuclear commission, Golmazeh Aghazadeh, announced production had started at the Isfahan facility and the process would be completed at the Natanz centrifuge plant.
On the state of the Isfahan plant, the Iranian official reported vaguely that the contractors had announced it was up and the facility functioning. He added: In three weeks time the Iranian people will hold a grand celebration to mark full operation at the Natanz plant.
DEBKAfiles sources interpret this as indicating that Irans centrifuge industry is working at full capacity and in three weeks it will have attained for the first time the volume of enriched uranium output requisite for building a nuclear bomb.
Yet the next day, Monday, the same Aghazadeh announced piously that Iran had stopped building centrifuges to win the worlds trust over its nuclear program. DEBKAfile cites another Iranian official as flatly denying on March 13 Iran was engaged in uranium enrichment.
All these conflicting statements are transparent attempts by Iran to bewilder and throw off pressure as the Islamic republic advances on its objective.
Aghazadehs first announcement, aired by state television as in interview Sunday, was timed for the one-day visit UN nuclear watchdog inspectors paid at Natanz. The second statement was delivered on Monday, March 29, when the inspectors moved on to Isfahan. UN inspectors were thus confronted with the accomplished fact that Iranian was producing enriched uranium in defiance of international censure.
US officials working on the Iranian nuclear issue fear that the UN inspectors will hold back on condemning Irans nuclear breaches until chief inspector Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei visits Tehran next week. It will be left to him to find the words for a statement affirming that Iran has reached the point of no return in its production of the key ingredient for a nuclear bomb.
DEBKAfile sources add Iran is impervious to the anger of the European Union which has broken off all contacts with its officials on the issue. Contacts have also been interrupted with Moscow. President Vladimir Putin has honored his pledge to President George W. Bush to halt Russian assistance in the construction of Irans Bushehr atomic center and to withhold the fuel rods for powering its reactor.
In Tehran, the hard-line rulers of the Islamic republic evidently trust that
the storm clouds gathering over the White House in the wake of the 9/11 inquiry
will tie Washingtons hands for long enough to allow them to extort de
facto acceptance of their continuing uranium enrichment without risk of harsh