VIENNA, Austria — The U.N. nuclear agency said Thursday that Iran was producing less nuclear fuel than expected and praised Tehran for "a significant step forward" in explaining past atomic actions that have raised suspicions.
The report is expected to make it more difficult for the United States to rally support for a new round of sanctions against Tehran.
At the same time, the report confirmed that Iran continued to expand its uranium enrichment program, reflecting the Islamic republic's defiance of the U.N. Security Council. Still, U.N. officials said, both enrichment and the building of a plutonium-producing reactor was continuing more slowly than expected.
International Atomic Energy Agency Deputy Director General Olli Heinonen, who brokered the cooperation deal with Iran, highlighted the importance of the agreement, noting that Tehran's past refusal to answer the IAEA's questions triggered Security Council sanctions in the first place.
Like the joint plan on cooperation between Iran and the agency, the report -- to be considered next week by the 35-nation IAEA board -- said the agency felt that information provided by Iran on past small-scale plutonium experiments had "resolved" agency concerns about the issue.