Iran's Nuclear Chief: 20 Enrichment Sites Needed

Announcement comes amid diplomatic posturing as negotiations between Tehran and the West remain stalled

Iran's nuclear chief says  that Tehran will build 20 new nuclear enrichment plants the size of its facility at Natanz, amid more diplomatic posturing as negotiations between Tehran and the West remain stalled.

Atomic Energy head Ali Akbar Salehi told Iran's Press TV that Tehran needs 20 more uranium enrichment facilities in order to produce enough fuel for its nuclear power plants.

Both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamidinejad and parliament speaker Ali Larijani have made harsh statements about nuclear talks and relations with the West.

Larijani said Friday that Iran's nuclear program has only civilian purposes, and accused the West of trying to deceive Tehran. He said that the International Atomic Energy Agency knows that the Tehran power plant is just a research facility… produce radioactive isotopes for medical purposes. So why, he asks, are they making such a fuss about Iran's (nuclear program)? The answer, he says, is that they want to deceive us and force us to take what they offer.

Mehrdad Khonsari of the London-based Center for Arab and Iranian Studies says that much of what is being said in the media is just rhetoric and that negotiations between Iran and the West have continued. "There is an underlying scenario: that is the fact that time is running out for the diplomatic option, and if we go by what President Obama has said, we are talking potentially to the end of this year. So, there is a lot of behind the scenes activity going on in terms of not allowing this period to elapse before some kind of positive development takes place, irrespective of all this rhetoric, which is no more than rhetoric. It's like the case of the man who wants to develop 20 refineries in order to have enough gas for the car he does not own," he said.

Meanwhile, the head of Iran's national security council, Saeed Jalili, is visiting Turkey Saturday, for wide-ranging discussions. Analysts say that Turkey could play intermediary in an eventual nuclear deal between Tehran and the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency.

Iran continues to balk at the conditions of a draft nuclear deal with the West, which would see the exchange of about 70 percent of Tehran's stockpile of low-grade uranium for more highly enriched uranium from France or Russia.

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