A new U.N. agency report finds that Iran has slowed work on its nuclear program in recent months, but the revelation has not swayed Israeli opposition to current multinational negotiations with Tehran.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday completed its most recent quarterly report on Iran, which shows the closely watched country has made few changes to its uranium-enrichment efforts since August.
The report covers the period since the moderate Hassan Rouhani became president in August. Since then, Iran has participated in talks with six nations about curbing its nuclear activities in exchange for the easing of punitive economic sanctions levied against Tehran for its suspected intention of developing an atomic-weapons capability.
The document shows that Iran added four centrifuge machines at is Natanz and Fordow enrichment facilities since August, compared to the thousands it installed earlier this year. Iran made no major additions to the controversial Arak heavy-water reactor since the previous quarterly assessment. The report also says that Iran's total amount of 20-percent-enriched uranium only rose about 10 kilograms in recent months -- to 196 kilograms, which is below the level needed to build a nuclear weapon, according to an analysis by the Washington-based Arms Control Association.
"While this report indicates that Iran has made a political decision to pause the expansion of its enrichment capabilities, it could quickly reverse course and nearly double its numbers of operating centrifuges" if a deal to halt the advance in Iran's nuclear program, address proliferation concerns and improve international inspectors' monitoring capabilities is not reached soon, the association warned.
Iran next Wednesday is set to resume negotiations with the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany about its nuclear activities, which it insists are peaceful.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized the prospect of lessening sanctions against Iran while it retains its nuclear program.
"I am not impressed with reports that we hear that Iran has not expanded its nuclear facilities and the reason for that is they don't need to," the Israeli leader said, according to Reuters. "They've got enough facilities, enough centrifuges to develop and to complete the fissile material which is at the core of an atomic bomb."
Israel has many supporters in the U.S. Congress, where senators are considering expanding sanctions against Iran.
President Obama on Thursday implored Congress to allow diplomatic talks with Iran to continue, saying that a military response to Iranian nuclear development is possible but not desirable, according to the Los Angeles Times.