Sanctions having no effect on Iran nuclear program, watchdog says

Yukiya Amano tells Reuters that Iranian reactors steadily increasing in capacity and production

Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak, 150 miles (240 kilometers) southwest of Tehran (photo credit: AP/ISNA/Hamid Foroutan/File)
Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak, 150 miles (240 kilometers) southwest of Tehran (photo credit: AP/ISNA/Hamid Foroutan/File)

The United Nations’ atomic watchdog says work on Iran’s nuclear program is steadily ramping up, despite a heavy sanctions regime on the country’s economy.

International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano said Monday that Tehran’s nuclear program was making “steady progress,” Reuters reported.

He added that sanctions were not having any impact on slowing down Iran’s nuclear program.

“There is a steady increase of capacity and production” in Iran’s nuclear program, Amano told the news agency.

The West and others have imposed several rounds of increasing sanctions on the Islamic Republic in hopes of forcing it to pull back from its nuclear program, which is widely believed to be for military purposes. Several rounds of talks between the West and Tehran have also failed to slow down Iran’s nuclear work.

The sanctions have wreaked havoc on Iran’s economy, and may have played a role in the election of relative moderate Hasan Rowhani to be the country’s president on Friday.

Earlier in the day, Rowhani said Tehran would strive to be more transparent about its nuclear program, but said the work would not slow down.

“We have to enhance mutual trust between Iran and other countries,” he said. “We have to build trust.”

He promised to encourage “step-by-step” measures to reassure the West over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The West claims that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon. Iranian leaders, including Rowhani, insist Iran seeks reactors only for energy and medical applications.

Amano said he would continue to pursue talks with Iran to address allowing inspectors into Iranian nuclear sites.

Rowhani does not have authority to set major policies, such as the direction of the nuclear program or relations with the West. All those decisions rest with the ruling clerics and the powerful Revolutionary Guard, which have so far appeared to embrace Rowhani but could easily turn against him if he is perceived as a threat to their grip on power.

Earlier in the month, Washington imposed new sanctions on Iran’s currency and auto industry, seeking to render Iranian money useless outside the country and to cut off the regime from critical revenue sources. The sanctions will go into effect in August, around the same time Rowhani takes office.

Amano’s statements echoed similar sentiments from Israeli officials, some of whom support a military strike on Iran, that sanctions don’t go far enough to stop the nuclear program.

Officials say the double-pronged approach of sanctions and diplomacy has yet to yield results and has only bought the regime in Tehran time to continue its nuclear program.

However, Rowhani said the only beneficiary of the sanctions was Israel.

Speaking in his first post-election news conference, Rowhani said that dealing with the economy was among his priorities, in a reference to how Western sanctions over Iran’s nuclear efforts have helped spike inflation to more than 30 percent and slashed vital revenue.

Previously, Rowhani — a former nuclear negotiator — had criticized Iranian positions that have led to increased sanctions, but also described the economic pressures by the US and others as “oppressive.”

“The Iranian nation has done nothing to deserve sanctions. The work it has done has been within international frameworks. If sanctions have any benefits, they will only benefit Israel. They have no benefits for others,” he said Monday.

On June 9, outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the Arak heavy water facility, in what was seen as a signal that Iran would not slow down its nuclear work.

Fereydoon Abbasi, the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, said during the visit that the reactor was scheduled to go into full operations mode by March.

Rowhani said in 2004 that Iran’s nuclear program would gain it legitimacy in the international community. He added that he had no choice but to let IAEA inspectors in at some earlier point, but added that while he did not lie to inspectors, he purposely did not give them information “in a timely manner.”

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