UPDATE 4-Defiant Iran plans big rise in nuclear enrichment

Wed Jun 8, 2011 6:43pm GMT
 

* Uranium spinning is heart of Iran-West standoff

* Tehran says responding to sanctions, military accusations

* France calls move "provocation", U.N. watchdog awaits word

(Adds detail on IAEA meeting, analyst, paragraphs 10-11)

By Robin Pomeroy and Mitra Amiri

TEHRAN, June 8 (Reuters) - Iran will shift its production of higher-grade uranium to an underground bunker and triple production capacity, it said on Wednesday in a defiant response to charges of trying to make atomic bombs.

"This year, under the supervision of the (International Atomic Energy) Agency, we will transfer 20 percent enrichment from the Natanz site to the Fordow site and we will increase the production capacity by three times," state broadcaster IRIB quoted the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, as telling journalists after a cabinet meeting.

Iran only disclosed the existence of Fordow, a mountain bunker near the clerical city of Qom, in September 2009, after Western intelligence had detected it and said it was evidence of covert nuclear work.

The decision to move and boost production drew immediate censure from the West, which has imposed a series of sanctions on Iran to try to force it to halt enrichment -- a process that can make weapons material if done to a much higher level.   Continued...

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