Iran has begun dismantling nuclear facilities: UN watchdog

VIENNA (AFP) - Iran has begun dismantling parts of its nuclear programme, as agreed under July's landmark deal with major powers, a UN atomic watchdog report showed Wednesday.

Iran "has started removing centrifuges and related infrastructure" at both the Natanz and Fordo enrichment facilities, said the restricted International Atomic Energy Agency quarterly report, seen by AFP.

Under the July 14 deal that ended a potentially dangerous decade-long standoff, Iran undertook to dramatically scale back its nuclear programme.

These steps, coupled with increased UN oversight, are aimed at making it much more difficult for Iran to develop nuclear weapons, an aim it has always denied.

They include slashing by two-thirds the number of centrifuges, machines which can "enrich" or purify uranium to make it suitable for peaceful uses but also for a nuclear weapon.

In addition, Iran pledged to change the design of a new reactor at Arak in order to reduce sharply the amount of plutonium produced, the alternative to uranium for a bomb.

In return, the six major powers - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - have agreed to lift sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic.

The accord was formally adopted by all parties on Oct 18 and "Implementation Day", when it enters into force, is expected in the coming weeks or months.