Iran’s defiant announcement that it intends to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants has provoked international condemnation.
Coming only days after the UN’s nuclear watchdog rebuked it for carrying out such work in secret, the hardline attitude is set to aggravate tensions between the Islamic government and major powers. Iran already has two large enrichment plants, one near Qom and the other in Natanz. Analysts say extra plants have probably been planned for a while but the timing of the announcement is more an act of bravado destined for Iran’s domestic audience. Other experts dismiss the plans, claiming the country is incapable of building ten such plants. Politically, Washington says it is a flagrant violation of Iran’s obligations under UN resolutions and is threatening harsher sanctions, while European countries have expressed grave concerns and criticise Tehran for being provocative. Although Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful and needed to produce cheap energy, its neighbours ask why this is necessary for a nation rich in oil.