Iran has 3,000-4,000 working centrifuges: parliament speaker

GENEVA (Reuters) - Iran has between 3,000 and 4,000 active centrifuges, still within the limit allowed under the nuclear deal with world powers, the speaker of Iran’s parliament Ali Larijani said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani holds a news conference in Istanbul January 22, 2015. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

The rare announcement of specific data on the nuclear program, reported by the Tasnim news agency, came days after Iran’s nuclear chief said it had completed a facility to build advanced centrifuges.

Tehran has said it will increase its capacity to enrich uranium if the nuclear pact collapses as result of Washington backing out of it in May.

Under the terms of the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

The deal allows the Islamic Republic to operate up to 5,060 first-generation centrifuges for 10 years at its Natanz plant and 1,044 first-generation centrifuges at its underground Fordow enrichment plant.

“The number of active centrifuges has been reduced after the nuclear deal,” Larijani said, according to Tasnim.

When we agreed and announced that research should be continued, at that time we had 9,000 centrifuges working. Now the number of them has reached approximately 3,000 to 4,000.”

Before the agreement, Iran had 20,000 centrifuges installed at Natanz and Fordow, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The remaining signatories - Russia, China, Germany France and Britain - are trying to salvage the accord.

“America and Israel have a program against Iran and they scrapped a deal they requested,” Larijani said, according to Tasnim.

“After America withdrew, European leaders asked that Iran not give a quick reply to this action and they asked for time, which is passing now,” he added.

The remaining powers say the deal is the best hope of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. Iran says its atomic program is for electricity generation and other peaceful purposes.

“The remaining members of the deal must take appropriate steps to guarantee Iran benefits from the deal,” Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s permanent envoy to Vienna-based international organizations, said Wednesday, according to Tasnim.

Separately, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi condemned a White House statement on Tuesday accusing the Islamic Republic of not preventing attacks in recent days on the U.S. Consulate in Basra and the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad.

Protestors set fire to Iran’s consulate in Basra last Friday.

The statement lacks credibility and is “astonishing, provocative and irresponsible,” Qassemi said, according to the IRIB news agency.

“[America’s] policies in Iraq have not had any result other than creating insecurity and instability. And the conditions of the recent unrest in Iraq, including the attack and burning of the consulate building of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Basra, is a result of these policies,” he added.

Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Angus MacSwan