TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran has about 18,000 centrifuges, including 10,000 active ones, the outgoing head of the country's atomic agency said Saturday, confirming figures from the UN watchdog overseeing its disputed nuclear drive.
"At the beginning of the month of Mordad (from July 23) we had 17,000 first generation centrifuges, of which more than 10,000 are active and 7,000 ready to start work," said Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, quoted by ISNA news agency.
"Some 1,000 second generation centrifuges have also been installed and are ready to start work," he said at the handover ceremony for his role to Ali Akbar Salehi.
In May, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran had installed 17,600 centrifuges, including 16,590 first generation and 1,000 second generation.
Iran says it enriches uranium to five and 20 percent for peaceful purposes.
Officials in the Islamic republic say the higher level is needed for a medical research reactor in Tehran.
But Western powers and Israel, widely considered the Middle East's only nuclear power, suspect Iran is seeking to develop atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme.
Newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rowhani said last week that Tehran was ready for "serious" talks on the nuclear issue without delay and that his country's atomic programme was an inalienable right.
Salehi, the outgoing foreign minister, said for his part that the president would "be personally responsible for the nuclear issue".
During his role as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005, Rowhani accepted the suspension of the enrichment programme.