Nuclear bomb ‘on Iran’s agenda’ as it boosts stockpile of uranium

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the new factory did not in itself break the terms of the agreement. (Reuters)
Updated 19 July 2018
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Nuclear bomb ‘on Iran’s agenda’ as it boosts stockpile of uranium

  • The factory would have the capacity to build rotors for up to 60 IR-6 centrifuges per day
  • Iran has begun working on infrastructure for building advanced centrifuges at its Natanz facility

JEDDAH: Iran has increased its stockpile of uranium and boosted its ability to enrich it to weapons grade, the head of its atomic agency admitted on Wednesday.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the regime had imported 550 tons of uranium before the 2015 agreement to curb its nuclear program. It had acquired about 400 tons more since then, bringing the total to between 900 and 950 tons.

Iran has also built a factory that can produce rotors for up to 60 IR-6 centrifuges a day for uranium enrichment, Salehi said.

The announcements came a month after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he had ordered agencies to prepare to increase uranium-enrichment capacity if the nuclear deal falls apart after Washington’s withdrawal.

Under the agreement, which was also signed by Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

The other signatories have been scrambling to save the deal. Iran has said it will wait to see what they can do, but has signaled it is ready to put its enrichment activities back on track.

Salehi insisted the new factory did not break the terms of the agreement. “Instead of building this factory in the next seven or eight years, we built it during the negotiations but have not started it,” he said.

Salehi said last month that Iran had begun working on infrastructure for building advanced centrifuges at its Natanz facility.

The announcements suggest that a nuclear bomb is on Iran’s agenda, Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, told Arab News

“Iran’s negotiating strategy here seems to be pegged to pressuring the EU to provide European businesses protection from complying with renewed US sanctions,” he said.

“IR-6 centrifuges are relatively complex and if Tehran moves forward with enhancing their capacity to mass-produce faster advanced centrifuges, they could easily establish a position to breakout quickly toward nuclear weapon production, if the decision is made.

“The capacity to build en masse more advanced centrifuges in the future doesn’t violate the deal itself, but it sends a strong political signal that nuclear weaponization could very well still be on the agenda in Tehran.”


Bouteflika-era tycoon jailed for six months in Algeria

Updated 18 June 2019
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Bouteflika-era tycoon jailed for six months in Algeria

  • Ali Haddad was earlier arrested in possession of two passports
  • Haddad is widely perceived to have used his links to Bouteflika to build his business empire

ALGIERS: Algeria’s top businessman Ali Haddad, a key supporter of ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was jailed for six months on Monday for holding two passports, in the first conviction in a string of corruption probes.

The business tycoon was arrested in late March on the border with Tunisia in possession of two passports and undeclared currency, days before Bouteflika resigned in the face of mass protests.

Haddad, who owns Algeria’s largest private construction company, is the first high-profile figure with ties to Bouteflika to be jailed since the president stepped down on April 2 after two decades in power. He was found guilty of the “unjustified procurement of administrative documents” and also fined 50,000 dinars ($420), state television reported.

Described by Forbes as one of Algeria’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Haddad is widely perceived to have used his links to Bouteflika to build his business empire.

The businessman, a key election campaign funder for Bouteflika, had denied breaking the law and said he obtained his second passport legally after seeking an interview with then-Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal.

The ex-premier and Haddad are among many businessmen and former politicians caught up in a separate anti-corruption investigation launched since the president stepped down.

Earlier this month Haddad’s lawyer, Khaled Bourayou, decried a “political trial” and told journalists the passport case had no legal basis.

The sentence is significantly lower than the 18 months term and fine of 100,000 dinars requested by the prosecutor.

Hassane Boualem, then-director of titles and secure documents at the Interior Ministry, was given a two-month suspended sentence and fined 20,000 dinars for issuing Haddad’s second passport in 2016.

He told the court he was following the orders of his superiors — Interior Ministry head Hocine Mazouz, Sellal and Algeria’s current premier, Noureddine Bedoui — who were not investigated over the affair.

Last week, a judge placed in detention two former prime ministers, Sellal as well as Ahmed Ouyahia, who served four terms as premier.

An investigating magistrate on Sunday conditionally released former Finance Minister Karim Djoudi as part of the corruption probes. Karim Djoudi, finance minister between 2007 and 2014, appeared before the supreme court’s magistrate in connection with the disappearance of public funds and abuse of office.

The supreme court is the only judicial body with jurisdiction over offenses committed in public office by government members, local officials and high magistrates.

Former Transport Minister Amar Tou was also conditionally released after appearing before the investigating magistrate.

Djoudi and Tou are among 12 former Algerian officials subject to preliminary probes for alleged criminal offenses.

Former Trade Minister Amara Benyounes has been detained in El Harrach prison, in an eastern suburb of Algiers, and former Public Works Minister Abdelghani Zaalane has been conditionally released.

Army chief General Gaid Salah, the key powerbroker in post-Bouteflika Algeria, vowed Monday that no one would be spared from the corruption probes.

The judiciary must “bring to justice all the corrupt regardless of their function or their social rank,” he said. “The fight against corruption knows no limit and no exception will be made to anyone... it’s time to settle accounts,” Salah said, adding it was “time to clean up our country.”

The graft probes have also seen a dozen Bouteflika-linked businessmen placed in preventative detention.

Demonstrations have continued since the ailing head of state stepped down, as protesters demand the fall of regime insiders and the establishment of independent institutions.