Iran appears to have dramatically slowed work on its atomic energy program since summer, U.N. officials said Thursday. The report could add momentum to diplomatic efforts to resolve a decade-old dispute over Iranian nuclear activities.
The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran all but halted the installation of new centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plants starting in August, the month relatively moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani was sworn in as president. Work on a controversial nuclear reactor also slowed, the U.N. watchdog agency said. Iran continued producing low-enriched uranium, but at a slightly reduced rate, it said.
The findings provided a boost to the Obama administration, which has joined five other major powers in seeking to negotiate a deal on permanent limits to Iran's nuclear program. The report suggests Iran has been unilaterally implementing key parts of a nuclear "freeze" that Western nations have been pursuing during nuclear talks.
The negotiations are to resume next week in Geneva.
News of the apparent slowdown came as President Barack Obama repeated his appeal to Congress to delay consideration of further economic sanctions on Iran while diplomatic efforts are under way.
"Let's test how willing they are to actually resolve this diplomatically and peacefully," Obama said Thursday at a news conference.