DUBAI/VIENNA  - Iran has conducted "mechanical" tests on a new, advanced machine to refine uranium, a senior official was quoted as saying on Wednesday, a disclosure that may annoy Western states pushing Tehran to scale back its nuclear program.

Iran's development of new centrifuges to replace its current breakdown-prone model is watched closely by Western officials as it could allow the Islamic Republic to amass potential atomic bomb material much faster.

Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful and that it produces low-enriched uranium only to make fuel for a planned network of atomic energy plants. If processed to a high fissile concentration, uranium can be used for nuclear weapons.

"Manufacturing and production of new centrifuges is our right," Iranian atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi said.

Iran's Fars news agency also quoted him as saying that Iran had carried out tests on its latest generation of centrifuge, the IR-8, but had not yet fed it with uranium gas.


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