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U.N. says Iran boosted uranium supply

Iran boosted its uranium stockpile and enriched the heavy metal used for nuclear power and atomic bombs to levels needed to fuel a Tehran research reactor, United Nations inspectors said in a restricted report.

Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium grew to 2,065 kilograms (4,553 pounds) from 1,700 kilograms in November, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Thursday in a report obtained by Bloomberg News. Iran produced uranium enriched to 19.8 percent, said the report.

The report demonstrates "the failure of the Iranian government to live up to its international obligations," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday. "We always said that if Iran failed to live up to those international obligations that there would be consequences."

The U.S., Russia and France called Iran's push toward higher-enriched uranium an "escalation" in a Feb. 16 letter sent to the Vienna-based agency. Iran, which hid nuclear work for two decades and says its program is peaceful, has pledged to make its own fuel for the medical reactor.

Iran, which has the world's No. 2 oil and natural gas reserves, has declined to accept an IAEA bid to supply the fuel from abroad.

An Obama administration official briefing reporters at the White House said the report shows Iran is having some technical difficulties with its nuclear program even as it continues to reject international demands to suspend the activities.

Iran's actions are part of a disturbing pattern as it moves more in the direction of nuclear weapons capability, said the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The U.S. and its European allies accuse Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb. About 630 kilograms of low-enriched uranium could yield the 15 to 22 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium needed by an expert bomb-maker to craft a weapon, according to the London-based Verification Research, Training and Information Center, a nongovernmental observer to the IAEA that is funded by European governments.

Uranium enriched above a 20 percent concentration is defined as highly enriched, which can set off the chain reaction seen in a nuclear explosion. Most modern atomic weapons contain around 25 kilograms of the heavy metal enriched to 90 percent.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano will present the report's findings to the U.N. nuclear agency's 35-member board of governors when it convenes March 1 in the Austrian capital.

The U.N. Security Council should back more sanctions against Iran, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Bloomberg News on Feb. 16. Iran is turning into a "military dictatorship," she said.