IAEA: Iran Slowing Nuclear Activities

VIENNA (AP) -

Iran has significantly slowed work on nuclear projects that could be used to make weapons, the U.N. atomic agency said Thursday in a report that comes as six world powers and Iran report new momentum in their nuclear talks.

After years of rapid progress, Iran’s uranium enrichment program expanded at only a slight pace, as did construction on a reactor that will produce substantial amounts of plutonium once completed, the report said.

Iran says it is enriching uranium only to create reactor fuel and says the reactor will be used strictly for medical and research projects. But the United States and its allies fear that Iran could turn the enriched uranium and the plutonium into the fissile core of warheads.

The International Atomic Agency report did not link the nuclear slowdown to Iran’s talks with the six powers, but the time frame covered by the report is significant.

It encompasses roughly 2 1/2 months since the end of August. Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, took office a few weeks after that with pledges of concessions on his country’s nuclear programs in return for relief from the international sanctions hurting Iran’s economy.

A senior diplomat familiar with the technical aspects of Iran’s nuclear program said the slowdown was not due to technical problems. He demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the confidential report.

The confidential report obtained by The Associated Press was circulated among the IAEA’s 35 board member nations. It also was sent to the U.N. Security Council, which has imposed sanctions on Tehran for its refusal to heed its resolutions demanding it stop enrichment, mothball the reactor and curb other activities.