Tehran: Thumbing its nose at a slew of sanctions imposed by the West, Iran on Wednesday put on display its invigorated nuclear might, showing off its latest fourth generation centrifuges and indigenously built nuclear fuel rods on live television.
Iran has developed "4th generation centrifuges" made of carbon fibre that are "speedier, produce less waste and occupy less space" as they spin at supersonic speeds to purify uranium, state television reported.
Emboldened by the terrific showcasing of its nuclear know-how, Iranian President claimed that Iran was immune to the sanctions imposed on it.
"The era of bullying nations has past. The arrogant powers cannot monopolize nuclear technology. They tried to prevent us by issuing sanctions and resolutions but failed," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a live television broadcast.
"Our nuclear path will continue," Ahmadinejad asserted.
Reaffirming his stance on continuing his nuclear advances, Ahmadinejad ordered the nation to construct four more nuclear reactors.
"It has been estimated that four nuclear reactors in four different spots in the country are needed. Go build them, to carry out research activities and provide radio-medicine needed by the country," he said in a speech on state television.
In a direct reposte to the US, Ahmadinejad said, "The Western countries can no more stop us. All our enemies are too weak. US is not at all powerful. We have shown what we can do.”
"Nuclear Does Not Mean Bomb"
Making it clear that Iran's nuclear strides had nothing to do with nuclear weapons, Ahmadinejad clarified, "Anywhere people hear the world ‘nuclear’ they think of bomb. It is not so.”
“Right now how many countries around us with bombs? They have 10,000 bombs, yet they say they are against bombs,” he added.
The announcement by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to unsettle the United States and allies who believe, the enrichment is a part of Tehran's drive to produce nuclear weapons.
President Loads Rods in N-reactor
Iran installed its first domestically produced nuclear fuel rods in a research reactor in a ceremony that saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad loading the rods into the Tehran Research Reactor.
Iran has created its own 20-per cent fuel plates for a research reactor in Tehran whose stock of fuel sourced from Argentina in the 1990s is running low, the report said.
The television also said that Iran had made progress in 20 per cent uranium enrichment at its Natanz facility, beyond enrichment activities already underway there.
Iran has previously argued that the 20-per cent enriched uranium was necessary for its Tehran research reactor to make isotopes for treating cancers.
Iran touted the development as an incremental step in the country's efforts to master the complete nuclear fuel cycle, despite Western penalties and UN sanctions.
Iran Denies Banning Oil Exports to EU
Underlining the high stakes and at times nervous confusion arising from the nuclear stand-off, Iran's Oil Ministry denied a state media report that it had cut off oil exports to six European Union states. Brent crude oil prices jumped up $1 a barrel to $118.35 in reaction to the announcement.
"We deny this report ... If such a decision is made, it will be announced by Iran's Supreme National Security Council," a spokesman for the ministry said.
Iran's English language Press TV said Tehran had halted oil deliveries to France, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Netherlands and Spain -- its biggest EU customers -- in retaliation for an EU ban on Iranian crude due to take effect in July.
"It is not really surprising that we are seeing this chaos as it reflects the fractured political process in Iran," said Nic Brown, head of commodities research at Natixis in London.
"You have the oil ministry responsible for revenues while other parts of the government are trying to make political statements. At the end of the day, they need revenues and they will remain dependent on the Europeans if they cannot place their oil elsewhere. Iran remains absolutely dependent on income from its oil exports," Brown said.
The Islamic Republic is the world's No. 5 oil exporter, with 2.6 million barrels going abroad daily, and the EU consumes around a fifth of those volumes.
With Western sanctions now spreading to block Iran's oil exports and central bank financing of trade, Tehran has been resorting to barter to import staples like rice, cooking oil and tea, commodities traders say.
Apart from the EU's recent measures on Iran, which include an oil embargo and a freeze of the country's central bank assets, Washington also recently levied new penalties aimed at limiting Iran's ability to sell oil — which accounts for 80 percent of its foreign revenue.
Iran's unchecked pursuit of the nuclear program scuttled negotiations a year ago but Iranian officials last month proposed a return to the talks with the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany.
In the past, Iran has angered Western officials by appearing to buy time through opening talks and weighing proposals even while pressing ahead with the nuclear program.
Ready for Nuke Talks: Iran writes to EU
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili wrote a letter to European Union, saying it was ready for renewed talks on its nuclear programme with the world powers.
The letter sent by Iran that came as a reply to the one sent by EU four months ago, reads, "Iran welcomes the readiness of the P5+1 group to return to negotiations in order to take fundamental steps toward further cooperation".
"Iran is ready for the continuation of talks," Jalili's letter said, adding that Iran "welcomed a recent remark by Ms Ashton that the European Union respects Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy."
The last talks between Iran and the P5+1 took place in Istanbul a year ago and produced no results.
The P5+1 consists of the five permanent UN Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus non-permanent member Germany.
With agencies' inputs
First Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012, 09:23