Archive for January 12, 2021

IAEA chief: Iran moving rapidly to enrich uranium, mere ‘weeks’ to save deal

January 12, 2021


Nuclear watchdog head Grossi says if talks are held when Biden takes office, ‘there will have to be clear understanding on how initial terms of accord will be recomplied with’

By TOI STAFF11 January 2021, 6:35 pm  0

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi at the IAEA board of governors meeting at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, September 14, 2020. (Ronald Zak/AP)

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi at the IAEA board of governors meeting at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, September 14, 2020. (Ronald Zak/AP)

The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog said Monday that there were “weeks” left to salvage the nuclear deal with Iran.

Rafael Grossi, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said at the Reuters Next conference that Tehran was advancing “quite rapidly” toward enriching uranium to 20 percent, as it has announced it would, in breach of the accord. He said the IAEA has assessed Iran will be able to produce some 10 kilograms a month.

“It is clear that we don’t have many months ahead of us [to save the deal]. We have rather weeks,” he said.

If talks between the signatories of the accord are launched, “there will have to be a clear understanding on how the initial terms and provisions of the [nuclear deal] are going to be recomplied with,” Grossi said.

The comments came two days after Iranian lawmaker Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani declared that Tehran would expel IAEA inspectors in February unless the US lifts its sanctions on the country.

“If the sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran are not lifted by February 21, especially in the fields of finance, banking, and oil, we will definitely expel the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors from the country,” said Farahani in a television interview, according to an English translation of his remarks by the Mehr news agency.

UN inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites are a key part of a 2015 pact with world powers that saw sanctions lifted from Iran in return for its dismantling the weapons aspects of its nuclear program.

The United States unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018, and the remaining countries that signed it with Iran — Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia — have been trying to keep the accord from collapsing. The Trump administration imposed crippling sanctions on Iran while demanding it renegotiate stricter terms to the deal. Iran has refused and responded by walking back its own commitments to the accord.US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Georgia Tech, in Atlanta, December 9, 2020. (John Bazemore/ AP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded to Farahani in a statement on Saturday that Iran has an obligation to allow the inspections to continue.

“Nuclear brinksmanship will not strengthen Iran’s position, but instead lead to further isolation and pressure,” Pompeo warned and urged that expulsion of the inspectors “be met by universal condemnation.”

On Sunday, the speaker of Iran’s parliament said that the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “is not a sacred agreement; it is merely a deal to remove sanctions under the conditions accepted by the Islamic Republic.”

Last month, Iran began enriching uranium to levels unseen since the 2015 deal. The decision appeared aimed at increasing Tehran’s leverage during US President Donald Trump’s waning days in office.

Iran informed the IAEA of its plans to increase enrichment to 20 percent. Increasing enrichment at its underground Fordo facility puts Tehran a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.

The purpose of the deal was to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb — something Tehran insists it does not want to do.

US President-elect Joe Biden has said he hopes to return the US to the deal if Iran returns to compliance with it.

EU warns Iran’s enrichment of uranium to 20% ‘a matter of deep concern’

January 12, 2021


Union says Iranians undermining diplomacy surrounding 2015 nuclear pact, looks forward to working on issue with Biden’s incoming administration

By AFP and TOI STAFFToday, 11:08 am  2

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks during an EU-Serbia videoconference council at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, December 17, 2020. (Francisco Seco/AP)

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks during an EU-Serbia videoconference council at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, December 17, 2020. (Francisco Seco/AP)

The European Union said Monday that Iran’s recent move to ramp up uranium enrichment was undermining diplomacy over its nuclear program and urged Tehran to avoid any further escalation.

In a statement on behalf of the 27-nation bloc, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned Tehran that its 20 percent enrichment was “a very serious development” with “potentially severe proliferation implications.”

“We urge Iran to refrain from further escalation and reverse this course of action without delay. Continued full and timely cooperation with the (UN nuclear watchdog) IAEA remains critical,” he said.

Borrel said the EU was looking forward to working soon with US President-elect Joe Biden on resurrecting the Iran nuclear deal, and rejected Tehran’s accusation the EU had aligned with Washington’s sanctions.

The EU supported “intensive diplomacy with the goal of facilitating a US return to the JCPOA and Iran’s return to full JCPOA implementation,” he said, referring to an acronym for the deal’s official name.A satellite image from September 15, 2017, of the Fordo nuclear facility in Iran. (Google Earth)

Biden, who takes office on January 20, has suggested the United States will return to the Iran deal, which it withdrew from in 2018 under US President Donald Trump, who reinstated and increased US sanctions.

Iran from 2019 has increasingly breached its own commitments under the deal, arguing it has the right to do so under its terms because the US was no longer abiding by it.

Most recently, last week it started again enriching uranium to 20 percent at its Fordo nuclear site, a step just below what is needed to produce material for nuclear weapons.

It has also accused the European signatories — EU members France and Germany and former EU member Britain — of going along with the US sanctions, even as their governments defied Trump to keep the deal alive.

In a likely sign of Biden’s intention to quickly address the Iran nuclear deal, the US president-elect on Monday tapped William Burns, a retired diplomat, to be his CIA chief.

Burns helped lead secret talks with Tehran that set the stage for the 2015 accord with Iran.