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IAEA steps up pressure on Iran with condemnation of its nuclear defiance

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"And [Iran's] whole message to the region – give or take the last 48 hours – is completely forgotten: nobody's interested in the 'resistance front,' nobody's interested in Israel, in fact nobody's interested in the United States," says Chubin. "So their whole visiting card to the Arab world as a 'resistance axis' has disappeared. Nobody in Egypt, or Tunisia or Libya or anywhere else, has talked about them."

The IAEA rebuke comes as Iran continues to advance its nuclear program, though questions persist about past and perhaps present nuclear weapons-related work.

The most recent IAEA report on Iran, published two weeks ago, showed that Iran has stepped up its production of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity, and had doubled the number of centrifuges it had installed – but not connected or turned on – at its most fortified underground site.

The report also noted, however, that Iran had converted about half of that 20 percent enriched material into fuel plates for a small research reactor in Tehran.

That is Iran's most sensitive work, and the top priority of US and Western negotiators, because it is a few technical steps from weapons grade. But Iran's decision to convert so much of it to fuel makes it very difficult to now be put to any weapons use – ostensibly leaving Iran further from a hypothetical weapons capability than it had been just a few months earlier.

Analysts have noted that such a step is not consistent with a regime racing to build an atomic bomb.

A controversial site

Still an issue in IAEA reports and in Vienna today is the military site at Parchin, southeast of Tehran, where IAEA inspectors believe implosion tests for triggering a nuclear blast may have been conducted a decade ago.

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