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Iran Reduces Key Uranium Stocks by Half: U.N. Agency

A technician stands near an International Atomic Energy Agency surveillance camera at Iran's Natanz uranium-conversion facility in 2005. The Vienna-based agency on Monday said Iran is "halfway" finished in blending down 20 percent-enriched uranium to a level less easily converted to bomb fuel. A technician stands near an International Atomic Energy Agency surveillance camera at Iran's Natanz uranium-conversion facility in 2005. The Vienna-based agency on Monday said Iran is "halfway" finished in blending down 20 percent-enriched uranium to a level less easily converted to bomb fuel. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

A U.N. agency said Iran is "halfway" finished in blending down high-purity uranium to a level less easily converted to bomb fuel, Reuters reports.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano said a six-month atomic accord between Iran and a half-dozen world powers is so far "being implemented as planned." IAEA officials are overseeing the Middle Eastern nation's compliance with nuclear restrictions that entered into force last month under the interim deal. Western governments hope the initial agreement will lead to longer-term restrictions on Tehran's bomb-relevant nuclear activities.

Iran's "dilution of a proportion" of its 20 percent-enriched uranium has "reached the halfway mark," Amano told his organization's 35-nation governing board on Monday. Iran has curtailed some of its atomic activities in exchange for limited sanctions relief from the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany, and has voiced openness to possible additional curbs under a future long-term arrangement.

Technical specialists from the negotiating countries are slated on Wednesday to begin a three-day meeting in Vienna, according to Iran's state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

Amano noted that his agency remains in need of supplementary funds to carry out additional Iran inspections required under the interim accord.

He said 17 IAEA member nations have suggested they could help finance the intensified inspections regime, but his agency is "still short of some [$2.2 million]" needed for the effort.

The IAEA chief said it is "essential" to eliminate global uncertainties over possible nuclear-relevant experiments conducted in Iran. His agency is investigating indications that the Persian Gulf power once carried out research that could help it to weaponize its civilian atomic assets.

Iran's actions in support of the probe "represent a positive step forward, but much remains to be done to resolve all outstanding issues," he said.

On Saturday, Iran's president reaffirmed Tehran's longstanding denial that it harbors any nuclear-arms ambitions.

"If Iran was after weapons of mass destruction, it would build chemical weapons. Those are easier to make. It would build biological arms, which are even easier," President Hassan Rouhani told Iranian Defense Ministry personnel.

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