Archive for June 8, 2021

Iran failed to answer questions on uranium find, says IAEA head

June 8, 2021

UN nuclear agency head Grossi has been pushing Tehran for answers on three sites dating back many years where inspections revealed traces of uranium of man-made origin

By AP and TOI STAFF7 June 2021, 4:55 pm  Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi from Argentina, addresses the media during a news conference behind plexiglass shields regarding the agency’s monitoring of Iran’s nuclear energy program at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, Monday, June 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

Iran has failed to answer questions about the discovery of uranium particles at former undeclared sites in the country, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog said Monday, calling on Tehran to provide information “without further delay.”

Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has been pushing Iran for answers on three sites dating back many years where inspections had revealed traces of uranium of man-made origin, suggesting they were once connected to Iran’s nuclear program.

The issue is separate from the ongoing negotiations aimed at bringing the United States back into Iran’s 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.

Grossi said in March that Iran had agreed to sit down with international technical experts investigating the discovery, and said he hoped to “come to some satisfactory outcome” by the time of the IAEA board meeting in June.Iran’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Kazem Gharib Abadi, Political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Abbas Araghchi, and Deputy Secretary General and Political Director of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Enrique Mora leave the Grand Hotel Vienna where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, June 2, 2021. (AP/Lisa Leutner)

But in comments Monday to the IAEA’s board of governors, Grossi said that “after many months, Iran has not provided the necessary explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles at any of the three locations where the agency has conducted complementary accesses.”

He said Iran also hasn’t answered questions regarding another undeclared location.

“The lack of progress in clarifying the agency’s questions concerning the correctness and completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations seriously affects the ability of the agency to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,” Grossi said.

“For objectivity’s sake, I should say that the Iranian government has reiterated its will to engage and to cooperate and to provide answers, but they haven’t done that so far,” he told reporters later. “So I hope this may change, but as we speak, we haven’t had any concrete progress.”

Grossi also said  it was “becoming increasingly difficult” to extend a temporary inspections arrangement with Iran. In February, Tehran suspended some IAEA inspections, leading the agency to strike a temporary three-month deal allowing it to continue its activities despite the reduced level of access.

“I can see this space narrowing down,” said Gros

In late May the ad hoc arrangement was extended until June 24, with Grossi describing the remaining time as “very short”.The Iranian flag waves outside of the UN building that hosts the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, office inside in Vienna, Austria, July 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Iran and world powers are engaged in talks in Vienna to rescue the 2015 nuclear deal after former US president Donald Trump walked away from it in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran. Iran started limiting inspections in a bid to put pressure on the Biden administration to lift the sanctions.

US President Joe Biden has signaled his willingness to revive the plan. While progress has been made and important aspects of a future deal have been hammered out, diplomats have said that tough decisions lie ahead and that nothing would be agreed on until everything was agreed on.

For this to happen, the US would need to return to the accord and lift the sanctions reinstated by Trump while Tehran would have to re-commit to full compliance with nuclear obligations it progressively withdrew from since 2019.

Blinken: Iran may cut nuclear breakout time to weeks if it keeps breaching deal | The Times of Israel

June 8, 2021

US secretary of state admits he’s unsure Tehran interested in rejoining pact; IAEA chief adds to skepticism, saying ‘space narrowing’ for a temporary deal

Blinken: Iran may cut nuclear breakout time to weeks if it keeps breaching deal

By JACOB MAGID and AFP7 June 2021, 9:40 pm  

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, second right, listens to head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi while visiting an exhibition of Iran’s new nuclear achievements in Tehran, Iran, April 10, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Monday that the “breakout time” Iran needs to assemble an atomic bomb could be reduced to just weeks, if Tehran keeps violating the 2015 accord limiting its nuclear program.

Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Biden administration’s budget for the fiscal year of 2021, Blinken admitted that it is unclear if Iran is “willing and prepared” to come back into compliance with the agreement, as talks continue for the United States to rejoin the deal.

“Meanwhile, its program is galloping forward… The longer this goes on, the more the breakout time gets down… it’s now down, by public reports, to a few months at best. And if this continues, it will get down to a matter of weeks,” he lamented.

Former US president Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, claiming that it did not do enough to prevent the Islamic republic from building a nuclear weapon.

Trump tightened sanctions on Tehran, and the Iranian authorities responded by loosening restrictions on their nuclear program imposed by the deal.

US President Joe Biden has said that he would rejoin the agreement if Iran returns to compliance with its caps. Washington says it plans to negotiate a “longer and stronger” subsequent deal once the sides have reentered the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The two sides have been negotiating in Vienna since April through their partners in the multilateral agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

The talks are scheduled to resume later this week in the Austrian capital.

“We’re not even at the stage of returning to compliance for compliance,” Blinken said Monday. “We don’t know if that’s actually going to happen.”US Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on June 7, 2021. (Screen capture/YouTube)

“There are multiple egregious activities that Iran is engaged in… Each and every one would be even worse if Iran had a nuclear weapon or was on the threshold of being able to have one,” Blinken said, pushing back against claims by Republicans that Iran’s behavior in the region should lead the US to end nuclear deal reentry talks.

‘Space narrowing’ for temporary nuclear deal — IAEA chief

Earlier Monday, the UN nuclear watchdog’s head said it was “becoming increasingly difficult” to extend a temporary inspections arrangement with Iran, as Tehran and world powers try to salvage the nuclear deal.

In February, Tehran suspended some IAEA inspections, leading the agency to strike a temporary three-month deal allowing it to continue its activities despite the reduced level of access.

“I can see this space narrowing down,” International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi told journalists in Vienna, at the beginning of the quarterly meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors.https://ed67b23e43e0d399770de4c8be96c4b0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

In late May, the ad hoc arrangement was extended until June 24, with Grossi describing the remaining time as “very short.”Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi from Argentina, addresses the media during a news conference behind plexiglass shields regarding the agency’s monitoring of Iran’s nuclear energy program at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, June 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

Grossi said he hoped that by “wider general agreement that’s being worked on downtown or by some other means, we are not going to see our… inspection capacities curtailed any more.”

“We cannot limit and continue to curtail the ability of the inspectors to inspect and at the same time pretend that there is trust,” he said.

He also referred to a long-running attempt by the IAEA to get clarity on several undeclared Iranian sites where nuclear activity may have taken place, mostly in the early 2000s.

In April the IAEA launched a new process of “technical discussions” with Iran in an effort to “break the impasse” over the sites.

But a report issued last week made clear that the IAEA’s queries had not been resolved.

Grossi said Monday that his “expectations were not met” and that there had been no “concrete progress” on the issue, despite the Iranian authorities’ stated willingness to cooperate.

“Talk must lead to conclusions,” he said.