Iran welcomes IAEA report

TEHRAN: Iran on Saturday welcomed as "positive" the UN atomic watchdog's latest report on its nuclear programme, but vowed to continue enriching uranium.

"Fortunately the current IAEA report has been more positive than the earlier ones due to the new approach of the Islamic republic," the head of Iran's nuclear energy organisation Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by state television's news website as saying.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Friday in a study obtained by AFP that Iran has slowed production of enriched uranium and agreed to tighter monitoring of its enrichment plant.

Tehran has also granted UN inspectors access to a research reactor long out of bounds, the restricted report revealed.

Enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear fuel, but can also become the fissile material for an atomic bomb.

Iran is suspected of trying to develop atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme, a charge Tehran denies.

"This report mentions that Iran has not halted its uranium enrichment which we consider to be our right," said Salehi, who is also an Iranian vice president.

IAEA inspectors said that while Iran is still installing uranium-enriching centrifuges at Natanz, the number of machines actually up and running has been reduced.

A total of 4,592 centrifuges were actively enriching uranium, compared with 4,920 at the time of the IAEA's last report in June. However the number of machines installed had been increased by around 1,000 to 8,308.

France, Germany and the United States have spoken in favour of an international energy embargo on Iran, which lacks domestic refining capacity despite being rich in oil.

Iran's refusal to halt unranium enrichment flies in the face of repeated UN Security Council calls as well three sets of sanctions.