Further setting the stage for a larger confrontation in December, the White House reacted Sunday afternoon to reports from Iranian media that the government in Tehran had ordered the construction of ten new nuclear sites.
"If true, this would be yet another serious violation of Iran's clear obligations under multiple UN security council resolutions, and another example of Iran choosing to isolate itself," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. "The international community has made clear that Iran has rights, but with those rights come responsibilities."
Gibbs referred to the 25-3 vote of the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors on Friday to censure Iran for hiding the existence of a uranium enrichment facility near Qom. Every member of the United Nations Security Council — including China and Russia, which have been reluctant in the past to rebuke Iran — voted for censure, an act the White House said reflected President leadership and ability to build international consensus.
"As the overwhelming IAEA board of governors vote made clear, time is running out for Iran to address the international community's growing concerns about its nuclear program," Gibbs said today.
Iran's official government news agency IRNA reported earlier today that Iranian cabinet ministers, in a meeting chaired by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told Iran's Atomic Energy Organization to begin building ten new nuclear sites to produce fuel for power plants to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity. The IAEO was directed to begin construction on five sites and to make preparations for the other five within the next two months.
“We need some 500,000 centrifuges to produce fuel for the power plants under construction to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity for domestic use," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying. ”We should be able to produce 250 – 300 tons of fuel per hour and to attain the goal we need more new modern centrifuges with higher speed."
As for the IAEA, Ahmadinejad said, "We welcome friendly ties with the world, in the meantime, we never let them violate the legitimate rights of Iranian nation as little as a needle-head."
IAEA director-general Mohamed ElBaradei last week sounded quite skeptical about efforts to convince Iran to end its uranium enrichment program, which could produce the materials necessary to construct a nuclear bomb. Iran is ignoring five United Nations Security Council resolutions calling upon the rogue nation to do so.
"There has been no movement on remaining issues of concern which need to be clarified for the agency to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program," ElBaradei told the IAEA board of governors last week. "It is now well over a year since the agency was last able to engage Iran in discussions about these outstanding issues. We have effectively reached a dead end."
Iran's chief delegate to the atomic agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, had told the IAEA that "neither resolutions of the board of governors nor those of the United Nations Security Council, neither sanctions nor the threat of military attacks, can interrupt peaceful nuclear activities in Iran, even a second."
Iran's ability to carry out Ahmadinejad's orders are in question. Since 2000, Iran has constructed fewer than 9,000 centrifuges, experts say, making Ahmadinejad's call for 500,000 new ones quite a tall order.
After the IAEA censure, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani threatened to stop cooperating at all with the international community, calling for his nation to "form a new type of relationship with the West….If the West continues to pressure us, then parliament can review Iran's cooperation level with the IAEA."