UN agency documents Iran atom advances

VIENNA (AP) — U.N. nuclear inspectors recently counted nearly 200 advanced machines fully or partially installed at Iran’s main uranium enrichment site, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Thursday, confirming diplomats’ accounts that Tehran has begun a major upgrade of a program that can be used to make atomic arms.

Iran denies it wants such weapons and says it is enriching only to make reactor fuel and for scientific and medical purposes under international law specifically allowing such activities.

But because it hid its enrichment program — and other nuclear activities — for decades, many countries fear that Tehran ultimately wants to enrich to weapons-grade level, suitable for arming nuclear warheads. U.N sanctions and Security Council demands for a halt in enrichment have been ineffective, with Iran instead expanding the activity.

The IAEA also has failed to re-launch an investigation into allegations that Iran worked secretly on components of a nuclear weapons program.

Noting a years-long lack of progress, the report said that without Iranian “engagement,” the IAEA will be unable to resolve concerns “which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.”

Iran announced in January that it planned to upgrade its Natanz enrichment facility, then said earlier this month that it had started doing so. On Wednesday, diplomats told The Associated Press that upward of 100 enriching centrifuges had already been installed.

However, the IAEA report, circulated Thursday to the 35-nation agency board, was the first independent and on-record confirmation that the work had begun and was advancing. The confidential IAEA report, which was leaked to news media, said IAEA inspectors saw 180 of the high-tech IR-2m centrifuges fully or partially mounted at Natanz during a Feb. 6 inspection tour.

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