Iran has slowed its efforts to enrich uranium in what could be construed as a sign that it wishes to prevent a "direct confrontation" over its nuclear program, The New York Times reported on Thursday, citing US and other Western officials.

According to the report, Iran began in August to convert some of its uranium enriched to 20 percent into an oxide powder that can be used in its medical research reactor, but which cannot easily be used in a nuclear weapon.

Citing the latest quarterly report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Times reported that had Iran not diverted the enriched uranium to the non-military research reactor project, it would now have enough material for one atomic bomb and be close to possessing enough medium-enriched uranium for a second bomb.

Former IAEA head of inspections Olli Heinonen told the Times that Iran appeared to be trying "to take heat away so that things didn’t go over the tipping point.”

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