Preliminary exploration surveys for raw uranium in Iran are progressing well, but it is too early to announce any discoveries, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran (AEOI) was quoted as saying on Sunday. Behrouz Kamalvandi spoke to the ISNA agency a day after AEOI chief Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by state news agency IRNA as saying recent "discoveries" had made Iran confident of its reserves and a new mine would become operational soon.

The discovery of raw uranium, which can be refined to make nuclear fuel, would make Iran's disputed nuclear program more self-sufficient and raise concerns among those who fear the program is aimed at developing a bomb, a charge Iran denies.

"Mr Salehi said aerial exploration surveys across the country are going well and the results are promising. Of course, after aerial surveys the work of ground exploration will begin," Kamalvandi said.

"At the moment these efforts are proceeding well, but for the final results and analysis we must wait until aerial and ground operations are finished throughout the country."

Salehi noted on Sunday that Iran had conducted aerial exploration of 63 percent of its territory and hoped to complete the work after four years.

Mineral prospectors often conduct wide aerial surveys to find promising areas before starting more detailed explorations on the ground.

(Reporting by Sam Wilkin, Editing by William Maclean and Dominic Evans)