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US: Iran Nuclear Problem Must be Urgently Addressed

U.S. officials said Friday that the United States and the international community must urgently address Iran's nuclear activities, following a United Nations report on Tehran's uranium enrichment.

Diplomats close to the U.N. nuclear agency say Iran has until recently been underestimating the amount of uranium it has enriched by nearly one-third. The disclosure came in a report issued Thursday to the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

A White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, says that the report "represents another lost opportunity for Iran," and that the international community cannot be confident that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said in a radio interview that the report left no doubt about Iran's continued pursuit of its nuclear program, and that Washington would use "enhanced pressures" and possibly "direct engagement" to convince it to change course.

Thursday's IAEA report said Iran had produced a total of 839 kilograms of low-enriched uranium (UF6) by mid-November. But the agency's previous report, published in November, said Iran at the time estimated that it had produced only 630 kilograms.

Diplomats are downplaying the significance of the discrepancy. They attribute it to the difference between Iran's own estimates of its production and the actual measurements made by IAEA inspectors in their annual physical inventory.

Iran is now believed to possess 1,010 kilograms of low-enriched nuclear fuel. Nuclear experts say that amount - if it were further purified - would be enough to create a nuclear weapon if Iran had the technical ability to do so.

Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed only at producing nuclear energy. The United States and Europe believe Iran is secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.