Iran dramatically increased its production of a more enriched form of uranium in recent months, U.N. inspectors reported Thursday, suggesting that the country’s nuclear facilities were ramping up their output even as Iran’s leaders engaged in international negotiations on possible curbs to its nuclear program.
At the same time, Iran appeared to have taken steps that would make it harder to use its uranium stockpile to make nuclear bombs, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported.
The mixed picture of Iran’s nuclear progress prompted renewed calls from the Obama administration for a diplomatic resolution to the standoff that has led to oil embargoes, economic sanctions and threats of military strikes.
“The window of opportunity to resolve this diplomatically remains open, but it will not remain open indefinitely,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters after the IAEA report was released.
The report, based on routine monitoring of Iran’s nuclear facilities, documented a sizable jump in Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent, a level that can be converted relatively easily to the more highly enriched uranium needed for weapons. The report said Iran has 255 pounds of uranium enriched at 20 percent, up from 159 pounds in May.