PARIS/VIENNA - Iran is enriching uranium at a constant pace and international sanctions aimed at making Tehran suspend the activity are having no visible impact, the UN nuclear watchdog chief said in unusually blunt remarks on Tuesday.
The point made by Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reinforced the view of many analysts that increased Western economic pressure on Iran has failed to make it change its nuclear course.
He spoke a day before senior officials from six world powers were to meet in Brussels to weigh strategy towards Iran amid signs of a renewed push to resolve the dispute diplomatically after US President Barack Obama's re-election.
Asked whether sanctions had produced any deterrent effect, Amano told reporters in Paris: "We are verifying the activities at the nuclear sites in Iran and we do not see any effect. They are, for example, producing enriched uranium up to 5 percent and 20 percent with a quite constant pace."
Amano, whose inspectors regularly visit Iran's nuclear facilities, added: "It has not changed. We have observed that the progression of enrichment has been constant. There has been a steady, gradual increase in the amount."
The IAEA, tasked with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons in the world, said in its latest quarterly report on Iran that it had finished installing enrichment centrifuges at its Fordow underground plant.
The report, submitted to IAEA member states on Friday, underlined the tough task facing the powers in seeking to persuade Tehran to suspend work which Iran says is peaceful but they fear is aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability.