11/30/2009, 00.00
IRAN
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Tehran launches 10 new facilities for uranium enrichment

The Iranian parliament asks the government to reduce cooperation with the UN. Meanwhile growing internal resistance and fears over an Israeli attack. Iran is the fifth largest oil exporter, forced to increase imports of gasoline and diesel.

Teheran (AsiaNews) - Iran returns to defy the West and is preparing to face significantly increased risks of war or new economic sanctions. Yesterday, the government approved a plan to build 10 new sites to enrich uranium, which will have the same size of the plant at Natanz. The State broadcaster Irib specified that the Iranian Organization for Atomic Energy Agency has been ordered to begin work within two months. Not only that, Iran could decide to enrich its own uranium to produce the fuel necessary to fuel a reactor "for medical purposes." This was announced by President Ahmadinejad, adding that the project will be discussed at the next meeting of the government, scheduled for December 2 next.

As early yesterday morning - in a move aimed at undermining the already tense relations with world powers - the Iranian Parliament had asked the government to reduce its cooperation with the UN nuclear agency (IAEA) after the latter voted a resolution (with the rare support from China and Russia) that criticizes Iran for secretly constructing a facility to enrich uranium.

But behind the provocation of the Islamic regime are hidden nervousness and insecurity. In addition to widespread popular unrest (demonstrations going on every week in Tehran and in major cities across the country), the Iranian mullahs see the increasing threat of an Israeli attack on their nuclear sites, as well as sanctions from the international community which would be a blow to an already crippled economy. Recently, even the outgoing head of the IAEA, ElBaradei (always conducive to dialogue), said he was convinced that continuing the only way forward will be that of sanctions.

And while on the domestic front, the regime relies on repression and torture, on the external front it is working to make alliances that will save it from a possible diplomatic isolation. And not only. This explains the activism of recent weeks of the hawk Ahmadinejad in South America and Africa. Having already support from Chavez of Venezuela he has also brought home the support of Brazil's Lula, endorsing the right of Iran to develop a nuclear program and is working on future partnerships with Bolivia, the Gambia and Senegal.

At the same time the Iranian president is stock piling petrol and diesel. Yesterday it was reported that the Islamic Republic will increase imports of fuel by 27% by mid-March. Despite being the fifth largest exporter of oil, due to insufficient refinery plants, Iran is forced to import 40% of its  demands of fuel. This makes the country particularly vulnerable to any Western sanctions that affect the field of oil refining. Iran is known to be vulnerable and to give a sign of strength this month has increased by 14 million gallons a day the domestic production of diesel ... but only for a couple of days.

On a military level things are no better. According to various agencies, Israel is preparing a new generation of weapons to face the challenge of Iran, while Tehran runs drills for nuclear defence. (MAL)
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