Trump yet to speak to UN nuclear watchdog about Iran deal
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Trump yet to speak to UN nuclear watchdog about Iran deal

With Netanyahu in US to discuss the maligned pact, Yukiya Amano says new administration has not broached subject with IAEA

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano arrives for a panel discussion during the last day of the World Government Summit, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, February 14, 2017. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano arrives for a panel discussion during the last day of the World Government Summit, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, February 14, 2017. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)

The head of the United Nations’ atomic agency said Tuesday the administration of US President Donald Trump has yet to be in touch with him or others about their criticism of the Iran nuclear deal.

Yukiya Amano, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told The Associated Press that his organization was “in constant touch” with the US, but had yet to hear from the new administration on their concerns.

“I’m expecting to have direct contact with the new administration very soon,” Amano said.

Trump has signaled he wants to take a harder line on Iran than his predecessor Barack Obama, for whom the deal reached between Iran and world powers was a major foreign policy achievement.

Trump included Iran in his travel ban affecting seven Muslim-majority countries. During his campaign, Trump said he wanted to renegotiate the Iran deal, without elaborating.

US President Donald Trump pauses during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Donald Trump pauses during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The White House could not be immediately reached for comment.

On Wednesday, Trump is slated to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with Iran expected to be high on the agenda.

From left to right: Acting Security Advisor Yaakov Nagel, Military Attache to the Prime Minister Eliezer Toledano, PM Netanyahu's chief of staff Yoav Horowitz, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Blair House in Washington, February 13 (Avi Ohayun/GPO)
Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaking with advisers at the Blair House in Washington, February 13, 2017. (Avi Ohayun/GPO)

Netanyahu was among the nuclear deal’s loudest critics and analysts say he is likely to use the meeting to discuss either dismantling the nuclear accord or levying new sanctions on Iran.

In response to the US Congress extending some sanctions on Iran, the country announced in December it would draw up plans to build nuclear-powered ships. The nuclear deal allows Iran to conduct peaceful atomic research.

Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Amano said the Iranian government had yet to reach out on Trump’s comments, though it remained in touch with UN atomic officials. He mentioned his trip in December to Tehran, in which he met President Hassan Rouhani and others.

“Why not meet again in the near future?” he added.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gives a press conference in Tehran on Jaunary 17, 2017, to mark the first anniversary of the implementation of the nuclear deal. (AFP/Atta Kenare)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gives a press conference in Tehran on Jaunary 17, 2017, to mark the first anniversary of the implementation of the nuclear deal. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

The accord limits Iran’s ability to enrich uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Western powers struck the deal in order to deny Iran the ability to quickly develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists it has never sought nuclear arms.

Amano, in Dubai as part of the annual World Government Summit, said Iran had yet to be in touch with him or any of his officials about their own concerns over the posture of Trump’s administration.

Amano said the deal has held up despite a “number of events,” like Iran slightly exceeding its heavy water allotment. “We have been monitoring,” Amano said. “When there’s a certain indication, we can detect it immediately.”

Heavy water is a concern because it is used to cool reactors that can produce substantial amounts of plutonium, which can be used in the core of nuclear warheads.

In November, the AP obtained a confidential UN report showing Iran had slightly exceeded its heavy water allotment of 130 metric tons (143.3 tons) by 100 kilograms (220 pounds). Iran later transferred some of its excess heavy water in a sale to Oman, the sultanate on the Arabian Peninsula that has served as a go-between for Iran and the US.

On Tuesday, Amano stressed that Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium remained below the level required of the nuclear accord.

“The IAEA is functioning as the eyes and ears of the international community,” Amano said.

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