Iran has expanded sensitive nuclear work: UN agency

VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has sharply stepped up its controversial uranium enrichment drive, the UN nuclear agency said yesterday in a report that will further inflame Israeli fears the Islamic Republic is pushing ahead with atomic bomb plans.

The nuclear watchdog also gave details of its mission to Tehran this week where Iran failed to respond to allegations of research relevant to developing nuclear arms – a blow to the possible resumption of diplomatic talks that could help calm worries about a new war in the Middle East.

“The Agency continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a quarterly report about Iran issued to member states.

Iran’s increase of work that can have both civilian and military purposes underlines that it has no intention of backing down in a long-running dispute with the West that has sparked fears of war.

US crude futures extended a rally on the IAEA’s findings, which added to concerns that Iran’s tensions with the West would escalate. It gained more than $2 to hit the highest intraday price in nine months.

The White House said the IAEA report confirmed that Iran was violating UN Security Council resolutions with its nuclear enrichment programme.

“When combined with its continued stonewalling of international inspectors, Iran’s actions demonstrate why Iran has failed to convince the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful,” White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

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