DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran is building about 3,000 advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges, Iranian media reported on Sunday, in a development likely to add to Western concerns about the Islamic state's disputed nuclear programme.

Iran announced earlier this year that it would install the new-generation centrifuges at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant, but Sunday's reports in Iranian agencies appeared to be the first time a specific figure had been given.

Iranian media on Sunday paraphrased Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, as saying Iran was producing 3,000 new-generation centrifuges.

"The final production line of these centrifuges has reached an end and soon the early generations of these centrifuges with low efficiency will be set aside," Abbasi-Davani said, according to the Fars news agency.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said earlier this year that 180 so-called IR-2m centrifuges and empty centrifuge casings had been put in place at the facility near the town of Natanz in central Iran. They were not yet operating. If launched successfully, such machines could enable Iran to speed up significantly its accumulation of material that the West fears could be used in a nuclear weapon. Iran says it is refining uranium only for peaceful purposes.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that renewed international efforts to negotiate curbs on Iran's disputed nuclear program have backfired by giving it more time to work on building a bomb.

His remarks on the inconclusive February 26-27 meeting between Iran and six world powers signalled impatience by Israel, which has threatened to launch preemptive war on its arch-foe, possibly in the coming months, if it deems diplomacy a dead end.

Senior US diplomat Wendy Sherman flew in to brief Israel about the Kazakh-hosted talks, in which Tehran, which denies seeking nuclear arms, was offered modest relief from sanctions in return for halting mid-level uranium enrichment.

There was no breakthrough. The sides will reconvene in Almaty on April 5-6 after holding technical talks in Istanbul.

"My impression from these talks is that the only thing that is gained from them is a buying of time, and through this time-buying Iran intends to continue enriching nuclear material for an atomic bomb and is indeed getting closer to this goal," Netanyahu told his cabinet in remarks aired by Israeli media.

Extrapolating from UN reports on Iran's enrichment of uranium to 20 per cent fissile purity, a short technical step from weapons-grade, Netanyahu has  set a mid-2013 "red line" for denying the Islamic republic the fuel needed for a first bomb.

The prospect of unilateral Israeli strikes, and the likely wide-ranging reprisals by Iran and its regional allies, worries Washington, which wants to pursue diplomacy as it winds down costly military commitments abroad.

In an attempt to make their proposals more palatable to Tehran, the United States and five other world powers appeared to have softened previous demands in Almaty - for example regarding their requirement that the Iranians ship out their stockpile of the higher-grade uranium.

A senior Israeli official said that while the Netanyahu government had hoped for a tougher line by the so-called P5+1, it was resigned to awaiting the results of this round of talks.

"At the end of the day, what matters is that the Iranians end their enrichment, whether it's through shutting down their facilities or through more nuanced technical safeguards," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

The official would not comment on how or if the latest diplomacy had affected the readiness of Israel, which is widely assumed to have the region's only nuclear arsenal, to go to war.

Iran may have warded off that threat by turning some of its 20 per cent-pure uranium into fuel rods for a research reactor.

The international standoff and shifting timelines are expected to dominate US President Barack Obama's trip to Israel later this month. The Israelis demand a tougher posture on Iran from their ally, though it has a hefty military presence in the Gulf and says it is poised to use force as a last resort.

Netanyahu's skepticism on the Almaty talks clashed with the optimism of Israeli President Shimon Peres, who after meeting Sherman last week said he had "total faith in the Obama administration, in its commitment and its actions in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons".

Obama's Israel visit has been overshadowed by local politics too, given the rightist Netanyahu's failure so far to build a new coalition government after he narrowly won a January 22 ballot.

Appealing to potential party allies to rally to him in the name of national security, Netanyahu told his cabinet: "To my regret this is not happening, and in the coming days I will continue my efforts to unify and galvanize forces ahead of the major national and international challenges that we face".