(Reuters) – Iran has virtually halted a previously rapid expansion of its uranium-enrichment capacity since Hassan Rouhani became president, a U.N. inspection report showed on Thursday, in a potential boost for diplomacy to end the Iran nuclear dispute.

In another finding that may be seen as positive by the West, the quarterly report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said no further major components had been added to a potential plutonium-producing reactor since August.

The marked slowdown in the growth of Iranian activity of possible use in developing nuclear bombs may be intended to back up Rouhani’s dramatic shift in tone towards the West after years of worsening confrontation, and strengthen Tehran’s hand in negotiations with world powers due to resume on November 20.

The Arak reactor, which Iran previously said it would start up in the first quarter of 2014 but later postponed, is of great concern for Western powers as it could yield weapons-grade plutonium once it is operating. It was a major sticking point in talks between Iran and the powers in Geneva last week.

Iran has “more or less frozen” construction of the heavy water reactor, a senior diplomat familiar with the IAEA report said.

The quarterly IAEA document – scrutinized by Western governments – was the first that included developments only since Rouhani took office on August 3, prompting a diplomatic opening during which Iran and six major powers have made progress towards ending a standoff over its nuclear activity.  see more

source: reuters