U.N. watchdog says Iran boosts nuclear work

Mon Sep 6, 2010 10:09pm GMT

By Fredrik Dahl and Sylvia Westall

VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran is pushing ahead with its nuclear programme in defiance of tougher sanctions and is hampering the U.N. atom watchdog's work by barring some inspectors, the IAEA says in a new report.

A confidential International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, obtained by Reuters on Monday, also voices continued concern about possible activities in Iran to develop a nuclear-armed missile.

Washington called the report "troubling" while Tehran, which rejects Western accusations it is seeking to build nuclear bombs, said it was unbalanced.

"This is a pretty critical report and it seems the sides have reached an impasse," said David Albright, head of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.

The eight-year international dispute over Iran's nuclear activities has the potential to set off a regional arms race and spark a conflict in the Middle East.

The United States said the new report showed that Tehran was still trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability.

"The IAEA's reports of obstruction and Iran's failure to cooperate are troubling to all who care about non-proliferation and global security," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, said the report by new agency chief Yukiya Amano "has damaged the agency's technical reputation" and was "not balanced" compared to those of Amano's predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei.   Continued...

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