With news yesterday that Iran has begun injecting uranium hexafluoride gas into 3,000 centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear facility, the Islamic nation could be less than one year away from being able to enrich weapons-grade uranium.

International reports persist that Iran has made improvements to the advanced P2 centrifuge designs it bought from the black market network created by rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Kahn in 1987.

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) told the subcommittees of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs March 15 Iran had mastered manufacturing all the centrifuge components of the P1 centrifuge.

Albright acknowledged much less is known about Iran’s mastery of manufacturing the P2 centrifuge since Tehran had denied the International Atomic Energy Agency access to the information.

Mohammad Saiedi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told reporters yesterday that within the next 20 days, Iran will disclose the number of centrifuges to which uranium hexafluoride, or UF6, gas has been injected.

Larijani also warned that Tehran could withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty if the international community imposed any additional penalties on Iran.

WND previously reported Russian sources continue to predict the U.S. will launch an air and missile strike on Iran in April.

WND also reported the USS Nimitz carrier battle group left San Diego April 2 and is headed to the Persian Gulf. The Nimitz is expected to relieve the USS Eisenhower currently on station in the Persian Gulf. The Nimitz will join the USS Stennis in a continued two-carrier battle group presence in the Gulf.

Iran’s announcement today validates that Iran has installed at Natanz 10 time the number of centrifuges previously known, defying skeptics who have been predicting that Iran was years away from being technically capable of enriching uranium to weapons grade.

As recently as August 2005, a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate put Iran about 10 years away from being able to manufacture a nuclear weapon.

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