Iran steps up uranium enrichment drive

The UN nuclear agency said yesterday that Iran had sharply stepped up its controversial uranium enrichment drive. The observations came in a report that would further heighten Israeli fears over what it perceives as the Islamic Republic's atomic bomb agenda.

The nuclear watchdog also offered details of its mission to Tehran this week when Iran failed to respond to allegations of research relevant to developing nuclear arms a huge setback to the possibility of resumption of diplomatic talks that could help address worries over a new war in the Middle East.

The agency is reporteed to harbour concerns over the possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme.

Iran's increase of work that can have both civilian and military purposes underlines that it has no intention of backing down in a long-running dispute with the west that has sparked fears of war.

The IAEA's findings helped further push US crude futures adding to concerns that Iran's tensions with the west would escalate. It gained over $2 to  touch price the highest intraday figures in nine months.

White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, said in a statement that coupled with its continued stonewalling of international inspectors, Iran's actions demonstrated why Iran had failed to convince the international community that its nuclear program was peaceful.