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UN atomic agency says Iran is increasing nuclear activity

VIENNA — Iran has prepared more than 1,000 advanced uranium enriching machines for start-up, the United Nation’s nuclear agency said Wednesday, a move that is likely to raise concerns among countries who accuse Tehran of wanting to harness enrichment for atomic arms.

At the same time, the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran now has pushed back the time frame for the operation of a reactor that Iran’s critics fear could be used to make plutonium, which — like enriched uranium — can be used for the fissile core of nuclear weapons.

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The report also confirmed that the agency and Iranian experts have agreed to restart talks focused on the agency’s attempts to probe suspicions that Tehran worked on atomic weapons, in what would be first such meeting since Iran’s hard-line president was replaced by a more moderate successor. News of the planned Sept. 27 meeting was revealed first to The Associated Press by diplomats earlier Wednesday.

Iran denies any interest in nuclear weapons, insisting that both enrichment and the reactor are meant for peaceful purposes, such as production of energy and medical and scientific research. Since 2006, it has shrugged off numerous UN Security Council and other international sanctions meant to curb its nuclear activities, and incentives offered during international negotiations and aimed at the same goal.

The confidential report obtained by the AP was released Wednesday to the agency’s 35 board member nations and the Security Council. It said Iran had installed about 300 more of its advanced centrifuges since the last report in May, for a total of 1,008, and had put all of them under vacuum.

Such a move is normally one of the last steps before the machines start spinning uranium gas into material that can be used as reactor fuel or the core of nuclear warheads, depending on its enrichment level.

The report also said Iran had installed more older-generation centrifuges to bring their number up to more than 15,000, with most of them running.

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