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    Iran plans to have 50,000 centrifuges at Natanz in 5 years

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    Iran's nuclear chief said on Wednesday the Islamic Republic had 6,000 operating centrifuges at a uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and was planning to install a total of 50,000 over the next five years.

    TEHRAN, February 25 (RIA Novosti) - Iran's nuclear chief said on Wednesday the Islamic Republic had 6,000 operating centrifuges at a uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and was planning to install a total of 50,000 over the next five years.

    "We have 6,000 working centrifuges at present and we are planning to increase their number next year," Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who is also the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said.

    He reiterated that the Islamic Republic would continue pursuing nuclear technology to generate electricity, despite international demands to halt its controversial nuclear program.

    "We have a plan for the next five years. It envisions the installation of 50,000 centrifuges over this period," he said.

    "It is time for the West and the U.S. to acknowledge and accept the fact that Iran is a nuclear power. Even if they refuse to do so, Iran will remain a nuclear power," Aghazadeh added.

    Iran is under three sets of relatively mild UN Security Council sanctions over its nuclear program. Western powers led by the United States, along with Israel, accuse Tehran of attempting to develop nuclear weapons.

    Iran insists it plans to use enriched uranium fuel produced at Natanz in its first domestically-built nuclear power plant, in the town of Darkhovin, which is scheduled to become operational in 2016.

    Meanwhile, the head of Russia's state nuclear power corporation Rosatom Sergei Kiriyenko announced earlier on Wednesday that Russia had completed the construction of Iran's first nuclear power plant at Bushehr and was due to start a series of pre-launch tests at the facility.

    The announcement triggered an immediate response from Israel's Foreign Ministry, which said the completion of Iran's first nuclear power plant was "bad news" for the whole world.

    The plant in south Iran, which Russia undertook to finish as part of a 1998 contract, was originally scheduled to go on line at the end of 2006, but the date has been pushed back several times.

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