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Iran Expands Uranium-Enrichment, Space Work

Iran has announced advances in both its nuclear and space programs.

Iran's nuclear chief says there are now 5,000 centrifuges running at the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility. That is a significant jump over the 3,800 machines that the U.N. nuclear agency said were operating there earlier this month.

Western nations want the enrichment work stopped, but Gholam Reza Aghazadeh ruled that out. He said suspension of nuclear enrichment is "not in our vocabulary."

In another development, state media Wednesday report a successful launch of the space rocket "Kavosh 2."

The combined announcements could heighten tensions with Iran's adversaries, who accuse Tehran of having militaristic goals. Iran says its programs are of a peaceful, civilian nature.

Few details were immediately available about the Kavosh rocket. But a similar launch in February prompted the United States to warn such tests will further isolate Iran from the rest of the world.

Iran says it wants to launch satellites for research and telecommunications. But the same technology used to build space rockets can also be used in long-range ballistic missiles.

The situation is similar with Iran's uranium-enrichment program. Tehran says it wants to produce low-grade fuel for peaceful nuclear power plants. But the same process could be used to enrich uranium to a higher grade for nuclear weapons.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.