Iran will keep up construction on the Arak heavy water plant, which, when operational, will produce plutonium that can be used in a nuclear weapon, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an address to the Iranian parliament Wednesday. This is despite the deal Tehran signed with world powers over the weekend.
“The capacity at the Arak site is not going to increase. It means no new nuclear fuel will be produced and no new installations will be installed, but construction will continue there,” Reuters quoted Zarif as saying.
According to a fact sheet released by the White House, as part of the deal agreed to in Geneva, Iran “committed to no further advances of its activities at Arak and to halt progress on its plutonium track.” However, Iran has disputed the version of the agreement put out by Washington, and some experts have said loopholes in the text could allow the Iranians to continue construction offsite and then install components there later.
The Arak facility became a sticking point in negotiations in a previous round of negotiations with Iran earlier in November, with France reportedly scuppering a deal with Iran because its terms vis-à-vis Arak were unsatisfactory.
Zarif also said that Iran would continue to enrich uranium at levels from 3.5 to 5 percent, but would not construct new enrichment sites, according to PressTV.
Iran and the P5+1 nations, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, reached an interim deal Sunday dubbed the Joint Plan of Action whereby Iran agreed to curb much of its nuclear activity for six months, during which the sides will negotiate a final agreement.
In exchange, the West has agreed to give Tehran some relief from sanctions that have effectively crippled its economy. Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, including its ability to enrich uranium, a key step in making bombs, remains intact.
Zarif has publicly insisted that the agreement recognizes Iran’s right to enrichment, and Iranian leaders have maintained that it is their prerogative to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes because it is not banned in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Many analysts agree that any final agreement will leave Iran with some enrichment capability.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who believes Iran is determined to produce a nuclear bomb and has insisted that any deal include a dismantling of Iran’s enrichment capabilities, harshly condemned the agreement as a “historic mistake” and said Israel was not bound by the deal.
The head of the British negotiating team in Geneva, Simon Gass, met with Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz and intelligence agency representatives in Israel Wednesday to discuss the details of the deal struck over the weekend as well as the impending negotiations on a permanent settlement. Details from the meeting were not released, but a statement from Steinitz’s office characterized the meeting as “open and friendly.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.