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New Proof that Iran Is Increasing Supply of Enriched Uranium for Nuclear Program

August 24, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: New concerns were raised today that Iran is expanding its nuclear weapons research and fuel production. And international monitors pressed the Islamic republic to explain its actions at meetings in Vienna.

Today’s talks at the International Atomic Energy Agency sought expanded access to Iran’s nuclear facilities, and came amid revelations that the IAEA will soon report that Iran has installed hundreds of new uranium-enriching centrifuges. The machines are reportedly in an underground facility at Iran’s Fordow nuclear site, south of Tehran.

Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful energy production purposes, a claim widely dismissed by regional actors and the West. The IAEA’s concerns, first reported by Reuters, heightened already-tense dealings with Tehran at a time when international talks are at an impasse, sanctions are biting heavily into Iran’s economy and oil production, and talk of military action by Israel to halt Iran’s nuclear program ratchets back up.

Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today, “We received additional proof that Iran is continuing accelerated progress towards achieving nuclear weapons and is totally ignoring international demands.”

On Tuesday, Iran unveiled an updated model of a short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile, the Fateh-110. That’s Farsi for conqueror. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said it was a purely defensive weapon.

PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, Iran (through translator): We want it to defend ourselves and our human dignity, not in an aggressive context, but as a deterrence.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A campaign of covert cyber-attacks against Iran has been conducted by the United States and Israel. Code-named ‘Olympic Games,’ it disabled thousands of centrifuges at Iranian nuclear facilities.

Several Iranian nuclear scientists have also been assassinated in recent years. Suspicion in those attacks has fallen largely on Israeli intelligence.