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Iran N-programme in trouble

Iran's, nuclear program has experienced serious problems, including unexplained fluctuations in the performance of the thousands of centrifuges enriching uranium, leading to a temporary shutdown, international inspectors are expected to reveal on Tuesday.

world Updated: Nov 24, 2010 01:03 IST

Iran's, nuclear program has experienced serious problems, including unexplained fluctuations in the performance of the thousands of centrifuges enriching uranium, leading to a temporary shutdown, international inspectors are expected to reveal on Tuesday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN unit that monitors nuclear programs, will provide no explanation of the problems. But speculation immediately centered on the Stuxnet worm, a computer virus that appears to have been designed specifically to target Iran's centrifuge machines so that they spin out of control. Iran denies the worm caused any problems.

No country has claimed responsibility for developing the virus, although suspicion has focused primarily on Israel and the United States.

Olli Heinonen, a former top IAEA official, said that Iran suffered a setback in its efforts to develop a second-generation centrifuge capable of enriching uranium more quickly. Iran's centrifuges are based on a Pakistani copy of an old Dutch design, and Heinonen said Iran may have trouble obtaining the raw materials for an upgrade because of international sanctions.

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