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Iran said to have 6,000 centrifuges

Iran's president said Saturday that his country now possesses 6,000 centrifuges, a significant increase in its nuclear program that is certain to further rankle the U.S. and others who fear Tehran is intent on developing weapons.

The new figure is double the 3,000 uranium-enriching machines Iran had previously said it was operating.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's announcement, reported by the semi-official Fars news agency, comes a week after the U.S. reversed course in negotiations over Iran's nuclear program by sending a top U.S. diplomat to participate in talks between Tehran and world powers.

The bend in policy had prompted hopes for a compromise under which Iran would agree to temporarily stop expansion of enrichment activities. But the White House said Saturday's development did not facilitate a resolution.

“Announcements like this, whatever the true number is, are not productive and will only serve to further isolate Iran from the international community,” said White House spokesman Carlton Carroll.

Iran, which insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, declared in April that it was aiming to double the 3,000 centrifuges it was running in its underground uranium enrichment plant in Natanz.

“Islamic Iran today possesses 6,000 centrifuges,” Fars news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying Saturday in an address to university professors in the northeastern city of Mashhad.

Washington and its allies have been demanding a halt to Iran's uranium enrichment – something Tehran has repeatedly refused to do.

The July 19 talks in Geneva were aimed at trying to reach a deal with Iran, and in exchange, the U.S., Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China would hold off on adopting new U.N. sanctions against Iran.

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