Iran enrichment 'at higher level' - IAEA

Satellite image provided by GeoEye in September 2009 showing facility under construction inside a mountain some 20 miles (32km) north-east of Qom, Iran Construction of the Fordo site was revealed by satellite images in 2009

UN nuclear inspectors have found traces of uranium enriched at 27% at Iran's Fordo nuclear site, a confidential report obtained by the BBC suggests.

The report by the nuclear watchdog IAEA comes a day after Iran and world powers held talks on Iran's nuclear programme.

Iran says the aim of the Fordo site is to enrich uranium for civilian use up to a maximum of 20%, and the latest readings could be accidental.

Analysts say 27% would bring Iran closer to making weapons-grade uranium.

The latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iranian officials told inspectors that the production of such particles "may happen for technical reasons beyond the operator's control".

Iran insists its nuclear work is purely peaceful, but Western countries fear it is seeking nuclear weapons, which require uranium enriched up to 90%.

Access sought

After the latest high-level talks in Baghdad, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said "significant differences" remained, but some common ground had been found.


The West is very concerned about Iran's ability to enrich uranium up to 20%, amid fears Tehran could be trying to develop a nuclear weapon.

There are civilian uses for 20% enriched uranium, but it is also a significant technical step towards producing weapons-grade uranium.

Iran has told the agency it was a mistake in starting up the cascades of centrifuges, the machines used to enrich uranium.

Nuclear experts say that is plausible. But one senior diplomat in Vienna refused to speculate. "It can happen," he said, "it needs to be checked".

More talks between Iran and six powers - Britain, the US, China, Russia, France and Germany - are due to be held in Moscow next month.

The goal of the international team, led Mrs Ashton, is an agreement by Iran to curb uranium enrichment and allow UN inspectors to verify its nuclear activity is peaceful.

The previous series of full international talks with Iran broke down in early 2011.

Last November an IAEA report claimed Iran had "carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device".

In its latest report, the Vienna-based agency reaffirms that it is seeking access to the Parchin military site.

The IAEA says that since November it has obtained more information relating to possible high-explosive tests there, which could be relevant to nuclear warheads.

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