Shahin missile, Iran - AP 9.03.2011
The purported launching of a Shahin missile during war games in Iran in 2011. Photo by AP
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Iran blames Israel and the U.S. for trying to provoke a military conflict in the region, Israel Army radio reported on Wednesday. According to the report, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that the two countries are conspiring against Iran.

"The Americans believe that the immediate result of a military conflict in the area will be saving the Zionist regime," he said, adding that the U.S. and Israel are trying to "weaken the popular uprisings in the area, in order to stop the spread of Islam to their regional allies."

"Obama wants to continue the Western hegemony in the Middle East and destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said.

On Monday, Iran announced it had sent submarines to the Red Sea. "Iranian military submarines entered the Red Sea waters with the goal of collecting information and identifying other countries' combat vessels," reported the semi-official news agency Fars.

Iran defended the deployment of the submarines, saying "this kind of military presence is support for Islamic countries, especially those with strategic ties with Iran."

Iran's nuclear energy chief and Vice President Fereidoun Abbasi was quoted Wednesday as saying Tehran plans to soon set up the more advanced type of centrifuges, suitable for higher-level uranium enrichment, at the Fordo site near the holy city of Qom in central Iran.

Meanwhile, state broadcaster IRIB reported that Iran was also shifting its higher grade uranium enrichment work from a site it has used for years to Fordo and aims to triple the production capacity of the nuclear fuel.

"This year, under the supervision of the [International Atomic Energy] Agency, we will transfer 20 percent enrichment from the Natanz site to the Fordo site and we will increase the production capacity by three times," the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, told reporters after a cabinet meeting, IRIB reported.

The statement is another act of defiance by Iran, slammed with international sanctions over its controversial nuclear program. The 27-nation EU, in a statement read out by Hungary's ambassador at a board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), responded by expressing "grave concern" over Iran's lack of cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

"We note with particular concern the announcement made only today by Iran that it will increase its capacity to enrich (uranium) to 20 percent, thereby further exacerbating its defiance of the United Nations Security Council," it said in a statement.