IAEA reports "significant progress" in Iran's uranium enrichment programme
In its quarterly report, the UN says Tehran has accelerated the installation of centrifuges at Natanz and is making further progress in the construction of a reactor at Arak. The West fears it could produce plutonium and enriched uranium, necessary for military purposes.

Vienna (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Iran is making "significant progress" in expanding its nuclear programme, including opening up a potential second route to developing the bomb, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in its latest quarterly update. According to the UN agency, Tehran has accelerated the installation of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges at its central Natanz plant (pictured).

The new IAEA report, seen by AFP, said Iran has installed at Natanz almost 700 IR-2m centrifuges and/or empty centrifuge casings, compared with just 180 in February. None was operating, however.

Iran has said it intends to install around 3,000 of the new centrifuges at Natanz to speed up uranium enrichment for civilian use.

The UN agency's report also outlines further progress in the construction of a reactor at Arak, in central Iran, which the West fears could produce plutonium and enriched uranium needed to build a nuclear bomb.

The IAEA report also notes that Iran had not provided the IAEA with "urgently required" updated design information for the IR-40 reactor at Arak since 2006, which is thought capable of producing enough plutonium to make an atomic bomb a year.

The US State Department reacted to the report by saying that it was an "unfortunate milestone" marking a decade of Iran expanding its nuclear activities "in blatant violation of its international obligations."

The Iranian nuclear issue has been at the centre of a long-standing dispute, in which Tehran asserts its right to develop nuclear energy for civilian purposes and the West claiming that its programme is part of military plan.

In numerous resolutions, the United Nations Security Council called on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and imposed sanctions.

Attempts to resolve the dispute through diplomatic talks between Iran and the 5 +1 group (the five permanent members of the Security Council, namely the United States, Russia, China, great Britain and France, plus Germany) have proven unproductive. Nothing concrete emerged from the most recent meeting, held in April in Kazakhstan.