World powers can't stop our nuclear drive: Ahmadinejad

( dpa ) - The world powers cannot stop Iran's nuclear drive, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday.

"We have nuclear technology at the highest level, and gained this achievement entirely through our own local experts - and therefore nobody can stop this drive or ever take this achievement from us," Ahmadinejad said in a ceremony in Tehran marking the so-called "National Day of Nuclear Achievement."

Ahmadinejad had said earlier Tuesday that Iran had started to install 6,000 centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear plant in the centre of the country.

"Last year, tests were made on 3,000 centrifuges and we entered the phase of (uranium enrichment at) industrial level - and today the phase of installation of 6,000 new centrifuges has started," the official news agency IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

There was confusion initially among the state media over how many new nuclear centrifuges were being installed. First reports quoted Ahmadinejad as saying that 6,000 new centrifuges would be installed in Natanz, later corrected the number to 3,000 - but then returned to reporting the initial 6,000 figure.

Although Ahmadinejad had said he would disclose more details about nuclear developments during the ceremony in Tehran, he refrained during his speech from referring to the number of new centrifuges.

Ahmadinejad just said that "new devices" would be tested and ready within three months. He claimed that the new devices would be "five times" as fast as the previous ones but gave no details.

Observers believe that Iran was gradually replacing the slower P1 with the faster P2 centrifuges which make the uranium enrichment process at least twice as fast.

Ahmadinejad referred in the ceremony once again to political issues, and accused the West of having a political motive in the nuclear dispute with Iran.

He said there were neither technical nor legal grounds to oppose the Iranian nuclear programme, and called on the world powers to respect Iran's rights in line with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and put an end to political pressure on the Islamic state.

"The nuclear issue (of Iran) is the most important political development in contemporary history whose geographical impacts go beyond the borders of Iran the region, reaching even big world powers," he said.

" Iran's victory in this biggest political battle will lead to new international developments," he added.

In the ceremony, parts of which resembled a television show, a choir presented two hymns on peaceful nuclear energy and a ballet- like group - all men - waved white flags, symbolizing the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programmes.

In Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declined to comment on Tehran's announcement.

Diplomats played down the significance of the announcement, and said that Iran had already in the past announced their intention of installing up to as many as 54,000 centrifuges for enrichment.

US Ambassador to the IAEA Gregory Schulte said Tuesday's announcement reflected the "Iranian leadership's continuing violation of international obligation and refusal to address international concerns."

Schulte added that if Iran wanted to achieve its right to civilian nuclear power, it should comply with international obligations and accept the June 2006 offer by Europe, Russia, China and the United States.

"Today's announcement shows clear intent to even further violate Security Council requirements. Negotiation, not escalation, provides the best path to international respect and regional security," he said.

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