Tehran, Nov 20: Iran's president said today his country wanted to install 100,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium, many more than previously stated and defying calls to halt work the West fears is aimed at making atomic bombs.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had said just last week Iran planned to set up 60,000 of the machines, which he says will be used to make fuel for nuclear power stations. They can also make material for nuclear warheads.
''We intend to install 100,000 centrifuges and, God willing, Iran will be able to provide for its needs in nuclear fuel by next year,'' Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by Iran's ISNA news agency.
Iran plans to start up its first nuclear power station, which has faced several delays, in 2007. The next Iranian year starts in March.
Iran so far runs two chains of 164 centrifuges, known as cascades. On their own these cascades would take years to produce enough material for a bomb.
Tehran says the next step is to install 3,000 centrifuges, a number which could produce enough material for at least one warhead in a year, provided they were spinning without interruption.
The United Nations has demanded Iran halt enrichment work.
Western diplomats question why Iran is pushing ahead with its enrichment plans when it does not yet have an working atomic power plant. They say it would be cheaper for the world's fourth largest oil exporter to buy atomic fuel on the world market.
Iran says it wants to ensure a secure supply of its own fuel and that the Bushehr atomic station, being built by Russia and due for completion next year, is only the first of several plants aimed at meeting burgeoning demand for electricity.