VIENNA - Iran is continuing to implement its commitments under a landmark nuclear agreement reached with world powers late last year, the UN nuclear watchdog said in a monthly update on Thursday obtained by Reuters.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has a pivotal role in verifying that Iran is living up to its part of the interim deal that took effect two months ago, under which the country suspended its higher-grade uranium enrichment and agreed other steps in exchange for limited sanctions easing.
The six-month accord was designed to buy time for negotiations on a final settlement of the decade-old dispute over nuclear activity that Tehran says is peaceful but the West fears may be aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability.
The confidential IAEA report to member states said that since the agreement entered into force on Jan. 20, Iran had not enriched uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent - a relatively short technical step away from the 90 percent level needed for bombs. It had also continued to reduce its stockpile of the 20 percent material, the report showed.
But it also showed that Iran had not yet completed a facility to convert low-enriched uranium gas (LEU) into a less proliferation-sensitive oxide form. That probably means its stockpile of the material is continuing to increase for the time being, as its LEU production has not stopped.
Among other steps, Iran agreed under the interim accord to limit its LEU reserve. The new plant is meant to achieve that by turning the material into oxide powder that is not suited for further processing into highly-enriched bomb-grade uranium.
Diplomats and experts have said the matter is of no immediate concern since Iran's commitment concerns the size of the stockpile towards the end of the deal, in late July, meaning it has time both to complete the facility and convert enough material.