Ex-nuke chief says Iran has 18,000 centrifuges

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s outgoing nuclear chief says Tehran has a total of 18,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment — a process that can be a pathway to making nuclear weapons. The number is higher by a third than publicly known.

Fereidoun Abbasi’s announcement came as he handed over his post Saturday to Ali Akbar Salehi, appointed by new President Hasan Rouhani.

Abbasi says 10,000 centrifuges currently operating are of an older model, IR-1, while about 7,000 more of the same model are ready to be installed along with just over 1,000 centrifuges of an advanced new model.

The U.S. and its allies fear Iran is seeking to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

Rouhani has pledged to follow a policy of moderation and ease tensions with the outside world.

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