Iran takes action to comply with interim nuclear deal: U.N. agency

By Fredrik Dahl VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran has taken the necessary steps to continue to comply with an interim nuclear agreement, according to a U.N agency report seen by Reuters on Monday, as Tehran and six world powers gave themselves an extra seven months to clinch a final deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency issued its monthly update on the preliminary accord's implementation on the same day that Iran and the major powers agreed to extend that deal until June, after failing to meet Monday's deadline for a comprehensive settlement. While Iran's harshest critics in Israel and the West accuse it of using the diplomacy to play for time to push ahead with a nuclear program they believe has military goals, the IAEA report indicated the country had made continuing efforts to show that is not the case. With inspectors on the ground, the IAEA checks Iran is living up to its part of last year's preliminary deal under which the Islamic Republic agreed to halt its most sensitive nuclear work in exchange for some sanctions easing. It also agreed to keep down its stocks of uranium refined to low levels by converting newly produced gas into oxide, a form less suitable for processing into weapons-grade material. The confidential report issued to IAEA member states showed Iran's stockpile of 5 percent-enriched uranium gas was just under 7,400 kg, within the limit agreed last year. Early this month it had been above the threshold, at nearly 8,300 kg. Experts say 1,000-1,500 kg of low-enriched uranium would be needed for one bomb, and would need to be refined much more. Iran denies having any intention of developing nuclear weapons capability, but its refusal to scale back atomic activity which can have both civilian and military purposes has drawn increasing tough international sanctions. The IAEA report also showed Iran had used some of its higher-grade enriched uranium to make nuclear fuel, another step which experts say makes it more time-consuming to subsequently be turned into bomb material. In exchange for curbing its nuclear program under the interim accord, Iran has received some of its frozen oil revenues held abroad. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he expected that Iran would continue to receive about $700 million per month during the new extension of the deal. (Editing by Robin Pomeroy)