Iran needs 190,000 nuclear centrifuges — 19 times more than Washington is seeking to restrict it to under a long-term deal with world powers, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday.
The comments on his website represent a dramatic intervention in the nuclear negotiations under way in Vienna between Iran and the P5+1 group of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany.
“Their aim is that we accept a capacity of 10,000 separative work units, which is equivalent to 10,000 centrifuges of the older type that we already have,” the supreme leader said, referring to the machines used in uranium enrichment.
“Our officials say we need 190,000 centrifuges. Perhaps not today, but in two to five years that is the country’s absolute need,” Khamenei, who has the final word on all matters of state, was quoted as saying.
Uranium enrichment can produce fuel for nuclear power stations or, in highly extended form, the core of an atomic bomb. The process is the most sensitive matter in the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1.
The talks have been taking place behind closed doors in Vienna and Khamenei’s remarks represent the most open declaration yet of Iran’s demands.
According to American media reports, the United States may accept Iran having between 2,000 and 4,000 centrifuges.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said last month that Iran could retain “several hundred centrifuges” but he said the Iranians were asking for “hundreds of thousands.”
The accord being sought by the P5+1 aims to finally allay international concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and silence talk of possible military action.
In exchange, punishing Western sanctions on the Islamic republic would be lifted.