UN: Iran honoring pledge to temporarily freeze nuke program

Confidential IAEA report says Tehran not expanding atomic activities; Iraqi PM indicates Tehran, Washington headed towards deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) shakes hands with then US secretary of state John Kerry (left) in Geneva, January 14, 2015. (AFP/Rick Wilking/Pool)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) shakes hands with then US secretary of state John Kerry (left) in Geneva, January 14, 2015. (AFP/Rick Wilking/Pool)

VIENNA — Iran is honoring its commitment not to expand atomic activities that could be used to make weapons while it negotiates with six world powers on a lasting nuclear deal, according to a confidential UN report released Tuesday.

Obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was posted on the internal website of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, the report could be used by the White House to argue that Iran is negotiating seriously.

The US administration is pushing back against the threat of new sanctions on the Islamic Republic being floated by a bipartisan group of US senators, with President Barack Obama warning that new punitive measures could scuttle the talks. Negotiators seek a framework agreement by March, followed by a comprehensive deal in June putting long-term constraints on Iran’s ability to make nuclear arms in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told the Al Hayat newspaper that the US and Iran are well on their way to an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

In comments quoted by the Hebrew media NRG website, al-Abadi said the entry of the Islamic State as a powerful new actor in the Mideast arena changed the priorities of many countries in the region.

“Insisting on ending [Syrian President] Bashar Assad’s regime has been pushed aside or pushed back in face of the war against terrorism. No army will be able to defeat IS if this organization continues to draw in the younger generation,” al-Abadi said.

Diplomats said on Tuesday that the latest negotiating round between Tehran and the world powers this past weekend in Geneva made some progress, but differences persist over uranium enrichment and other issues.

The US’s greatest concern is Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which can generate grades of material ranging from reactor fuel to the fissile core of nuclear arms.

Iran denies it wants such weapons, but agreed late last year to stop expanding enrichment and other atomic activities while negotiating. The monthly IAEA update said it continued to observe its obligations and was:

— not enriching uranium above 5 percent, which is substantially below the 90-percent level needed for the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.

— diluting or converting most of its stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium, which can be further enriched to weapons-grade material much more quickly than at 5 percent level.

— not advancing work at an underground uranium enrichment facility thought impervious to last-resort air attacks in an effort to stop Iran’s nuclear program

— maintaining a construction freeze on nearly finished reactor that would produce substantial amounts of plutonium — like highly enriched uranium a source for fissile warhead material.

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