WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.N. nuclear agency report that Iran has boosted its uranium enrichment capacity led to a renewed a call on Wednesday in the U.S. Congress for tighter sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s quarterly report - the first since relative moderate Hassan Rouhani won Iran’s June presidential election - said Iran has installed about 1,000 advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges and is set to test them.
“This IAEA report makes clear that Iran continues to rapidly expand its nuclear weapons program and underscores the urgency of Congress passing new Iran sanctions legislation into law,” Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
Legislation that would tighten sanctions on Tehran has been making its way through the U.S. Congress this year.
The House of Representatives passed a bill on harsher sanctions in late July that seeks to push Iran’s oil exports down another 1 million barrels per day in a year. The Senate Banking Committee is expected to pass its version of a tougher sanctions bill in September, although it is unclear whether the 1 million bpd goal would be included.
Western powers say Iran’s nuclear program is enriching uranium that could be used to fuel a nuclear weapon. Iran insists that it is for peaceful purposes including power generation and medical devices.
U.S. and EU sanctions have had a deepening impact on Iran’s economy in the past year and a half as they slashed oil imports, the country’s main source of income.
The measures already have cut Iran’s oil exports by more than half compared to pre-sanctions levels of about 2.2 million bpd, helping to devalue Iran’s currency and contributing to a steep rise in inflation.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Timothy Gardner and Bill Trott