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UN Agency Finds No Nuclear Pact Violations by Iran

FILE - The flag of the International Atomic Energy Agency flies in front of its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, Jan.15, 2016.
FILE - The flag of the International Atomic Energy Agency flies in front of its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, Jan.15, 2016.

The U.N. agency monitoring the nuclear pact between Iran and six world powers reported Thursday that it has found no violations of the deal meant to crimp Tehran's ability to make atomic arms.

But touching on one potentially sensitive area, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a review issued Thursday that Iran had begun manufacturing rotor tubes for centrifuges, the spinning machines used to enrich uranium. Iran is allowed to make the parts, but only under certain conditions.

For the 5,060 low-tech centrifuges now producing limited amounts of fuel-grade enriched uranium in Iran, Tehran must use spare parts stripped from old or idle machines. Parts for more advanced centrifuges would fall under even tighter regulations.

Depending on its enrichment level, uranium has a variety of nuclear uses ranging from reactor fuel to the fissile core of warheads.

In its report obtained by the Associated Press, the atomic energy agency said it wanted to keep a close eye on how many rotor tubes were being made and for what models of centrifuges to make sure they were being produced only in quantities and for machines allowed under the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Significance of overproduction

Overproduction could hint at possible plans by Iran to expand advanced centrifuge testing beyond pact limits. That's a significant issue, considering enriched uranium is a potential pathway to nuclear arms, because more technically sophisticated models can enrich the heavy metal much more quickly than Iran's present mainstay centrifuges.

The confidential agency report said "related technical discussions" with Iran on rotor tube manufacturing were continuing.

A senior diplomat familiar with the nuclear deal said details would be shared with the IAEA's governing board, which includes the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany — the six powers that struck the deal with Iran last year.

The diplomat also disputed news reports suggesting that the six powers allowed Iran initially to exceed limits on its enriched uranium stockpile and made other concessions when the deal was implemented in January, so as not to jeopardize the agreement.

The diplomat, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the confidential report and its implications, said the IAEA had verified that Iran met all the commitments outlined in the deal.