MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
And I'm Michele Norris. Iran's president says his country is expanding its nuclear program and is now capable of producing nuclear fuel on an industrial scale. That announcement comes on the heels of a new U.N. Security Council resolution meant to pressure Iran to stop enriching uranium; that's a key step to making a nuclear bomb.
NPR's Michele Kelemen has more details.
MICHELE KELEMEN: Iranian television showed an emotional-looking President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a ceremony in Natanz, the site of Iran's main enrichment facility. Ahmadinejad was announcing that Iran is expanding its enrichment capabilities.
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: (Through Translator) From today, Iran has started mass production of the centrifuge needed for enrichment uranium for the industrial purpose.
KELEMEN: The Iranian leader has always said that the nuclear program is peaceful, but the U.S. and other permanent U.N. Security Council members say Iran needs to restore trust by giving up its enrichment program in exchange for help in developing nuclear power.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says Iran is missing an opportunity.
SEAN MCCORMACK: They've had numerous opportunities over the past months to take up the offer that's been extended to them of negotiations so that they can realize their stated goal of a peaceful nuclear energy program. But clearly, they have decided against that course at this point.
KELEMEN: He said it will become more costly for Iran to defy the U.N. because the U.S. and its partners are determined to ratchet up the pressure in the Security Council. The council has already passed some targeted sanctions, and experts say these sanctions are sparking a debate within Iran. Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University, says Ahmadinejad has faced criticism at home for his confrontational style over the nuclear controversy and other issues.
ABBAS MILANI: My sense is Ahmadinejad is trying to climb back into some relevance after having lost much of his swagger, if you will. I mean, I think he began to lose his relevance and power the moment that the first U.N. resolution was passed against Iran.
KELEMEN: Milani suggested that Ahmadinejad's claim today was exaggerated. That thought was echoed by Joseph Cirincione author of the book "Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons."
JOSEPH CIRINCIONE: President Ahmadinejad is exaggerating Iran's capabilities for his own propaganda purposes. He's not the only president who does things like this, but Iran is still far short of true industrial capability.
KELEMEN: And Cirincione, who's with the Center for American Progress, says it's possible that today's announcement could set the stage for some concessions on the nuclear issue.
CIRINCIONE: Just last week, we saw Ahmadinejad in an hour-long ceremony pinning medals on the generals who captured the British sailors and then announcing he was releasing those sailors. There were some who believed that this might be a prelude to an announcement of a suspension of the uranium enrichment operations and the beginning of talks between Iran and the Security Council and the Europeans.
KELEMEN: At the State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack wouldn't speculate or say whether the U.S. believes the latest news about Iran's nuclear capabilities. He said the U.S. and other Security Council members will get a fuller picture when the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog reports on Iran in May.
Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.
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