VIENNA — Iran has met its commitments under a preliminary nuclear deal setting up the current talks on a final agreement, leaving it with several tons less of the material it could use to make weapons, according to a U.N. report issued Wednesday.
The report said more than four tons of the enriched uranium had been fed into a pipeline that ends with conversion of it into oxide, which is much less likely to be used to make nuclear arms.
However, the report indicated that only several hundred pounds of the oxide that is the end product had been made. A U.S. official told The Associated Press the rest of the enriched uranium in the pipeline has been transformed into another form of the oxide that would be even more difficult to reconvert into enriched uranium.
The official said that technical problems by Iran had slowed the process but the United States was satisfied that Iran had met its commitments to reduce the amount of enriched uranium it has stored. He demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the confidential review process.
Meeting conditions of the preliminary deal is an important benchmark as the talks go into what is being billed into the final stage of bargaining on a comprehensive agreement meant to put long-term caps on Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Violations by Iran would complicate the Obama administration's battle to persuade congressional opponents and other skeptics that U.S. negotiators are holding the line on demands for a verifiable deal that meets the U.S. goal of extending the time the Islamic Republic would need to make a weapon to at least a year. Tehran denies such aspirations, saying its nuclear program is meant only to fuel reactors and for other non-military purposes.
The report did not say where the rest of the material was. But it appeared to confirm the U.S. officiaI's description of the material being somewhere in the conversion line. That's because the figures provided by the IAEA indicated that it was not added to Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium.
Low-enriched uranium can be enriched further for weapons purposes. The interim accord capped Iran's low-enriched uranium stockpile at 7.6 tons. If it went over that limit, it would have to convert the remainder into oxide.
The confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report said that by the end of June that stockpile was just under that level.
The report was circulated among the 35-nation IAEA board and the U.N. Security Council as the IAEA chief left for Tehran to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met again in Vienna with Iran's foreign minister.
In his talks in Tehran on Thursday, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano hopes to "accelerate the resolution of all outstanding issues related to Iran's nuclear program, including clarification of possible military dimensions," the Vienna-based agency said in a statement. Iran's Mehr news agency said Amano will "receive Iran's alternative proposal to nuclear scientists' questioning."
An IAEA probe of the allegations has been essentially stalemated for nearly a decade, with Iran dismissing them as phony evidence planted by the U.S. and Israel.
Washington insists that the agency be given greater powers in its investigations as part of any overall nuclear deal. That includes questioning people possibly involved in the alleged weapons work — something Tehran rejects.
Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper contributed to this report.