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Why West struggles to rein in Iran's nuclear program

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That issue is likely to rank high on the agenda at the NPT review, slated to begin May 3 in New York. But few expect IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano to be granted greater power.

Since the Security Council first imposed sanctions on Iran in 2006 and insisted that Tehran stop enrichment activities, Iran has increased the pace of enrichment and promised to expand its program. Still, experts say that US-led unilateral measures to undermine Iran's nuclear program have taken a toll.

"There is pretty broad agreement that if, at some point, Iran is determined to have the bomb, it will," says Michael Levi, a nonproliferation specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "What we have also learned is that we are much better at severely slowing states down by interrupting their procurement efforts than we thought.... Now Iran's program is just not progressing as quickly as people assumed it would, because we've made it extremely difficult for them to get the materials they need."

Centrifuge explosions several years ago at Iran's main Natanz enrichment facility have been attributed to sabotage, as has the blocking of key components from places like Ukraine. The last IAEA report on Iran in February noted that of 8,610 centrifuges installed at Natanz – in a facility designed a decade ago to house more than 50,000 – only 3,772 were actually in use.

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