Iranian nuclear program makes progress

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Iran has reached another milestone in its nuclear program, U.N. inspectors reported Friday, saying the country has completed work on an underground factory for making enriched uranium. Western officials fear that the heavily fortified facility could someday be used to make a nuclear bomb.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency also documented a sharp rise in Iran’s stockpile of a more purified form of enriched uranium that experts say can be converted relatively easily into fissile material for nuclear weapons.

The advances are likely to fuel anxiety over Iran’s nuclear ambitions because both potentially shorten the country’s pathway to becoming a nuclear-weapons state. Iran insists it is interested in nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes.

IAEA officials chided Iran in the report for failing to take steps to ease international concerns about its nuclear program.

The U.N. agency noted that Tehran still refuses to allow inspections of military facilities where the government is believed to have conducted nuclear-weapons research in the past.

“Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation,” the nuclear watchdog said in its report, prepared for an upcoming meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors.

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