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Iran Says UN Report Shows Nuclear Work Is Peaceful

Tehran's envoy to Vienna, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran has said a new report from the United Nations nuclear watchdog showed Tehran's nuclear program was peaceful, despite Western suspicions it is aimed at making atomic bombs.

The June 5 report said Iran had significantly expanded uranium enrichment with almost 5,000 centrifuges now operating and this had made it harder for UN inspectors to keep track of the disputed nuclear activity.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report said Iran had increased its rate of production of low-enriched uranium (LEU), boosting its stockpile by 500 kilograms to 1,339 kilograms in the past six months.

Iran's improved efficiency in turning out potential nuclear fuel was sure to fan Western fears of the Islamic Republic nearing the ability to make atomic bombs, if it chose to do so.

But Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, said the report made clear again there was no evidence of any diversion of nuclear materials or pursuit of military aims and also that the agency was able to carry out its supervisory work.

"This is in fact a clear and categorical document in demonstration of the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities," he said in remarks broadcast by state television.

"We will not suspend our nuclear activities and we will not, at the same time, suspend our cooperation with the agency," Soltanieh said.

"This [IAEA] report will increase Washington's sense of urgency over the need to deal with this issue," said Cliff Kupchan of Eurasia, a risk consultancy.

Kupchan said it could also help conservative President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in his bid for a second four-year term in a June 12 election, in which he faces a challenge from moderates seeking a detente in Tehran's international relations.

"Voters...are proud of Iran's technological accomplishments; the Ahmadinejad camp will probably trumpet the agency report with gusto," he said in an e-mailed commentary.