UN nuclear watchdog: Iran uranium production up, can’t confirm compliance

In first since the 2015 pact was signed, IAEA doesn’t say Tehran is abiding by it

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano at a press conference during the Board of Governors Meeting at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, June 10, 2019. (Dean Calma / IAEA)
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano at a press conference during the Board of Governors Meeting at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, June 10, 2019. (Dean Calma / IAEA)

For the first time since the signing of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the UN’s nuclear watchdog on Monday did not explicitly report that Iran was implementing its nuclear-related commitments and said that its rate of uranium enrichment was increasing.

In each of the previous reports since the agreement, International Atomic Energy Agency director general Yukiya Amano wrote that “Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments,” text that was notably absent from Monday’s report.

Speaking to journalists after his speech opening the agency’s quarterly board of governors meeting, Amano said the accord was “under tension” and confirmed that Iran’s “production rate (of uranium) is increasing,” although he could not give an exact figure.

Iran announced May 8 that it no longer considered itself bound to keep to the limits of stocks of heavy water and enriched uranium that it agreed to as part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),which lifted crippling economic sanctions against it. Tehran’s move came a year after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal. Washington has also reinforced economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Feb. 3, 2007 file photo of technician at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran, 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran. (AP /Vahid Salemi)

“It is inappropriate for me to make the same statement of business as usual,” Amano said, though he stressed that it was not the IAEA’s responsibility to determine whether Iran was violating the JCPOA — only whether it was in compliance.

The latest IAEA report noted that “technical discussions… are ongoing” with Iran in relation to its installation of up to 33 advanced IR-6 centrifuges. But it did not specify the content of those discussions.

Amano said he was was “worried about increasing tensions” over Iran’s nuclear program.

“I… hope that ways can be found to reduce current tensions through dialogue,” he said.

Iran has also said that if the other parties to the JCPOA do not speed up work on mitigating the effects of US sanctions, by early July it may stop abiding by restrictions on the level to which it can enrich uranium and on modifications to its Arak heavy water reactor.

Two weeks ago, the latest inspections report by the IAEA said that while stocks of uranium and heavy water had increased, they were still within the limits set by the JCPOA.

In Tehran on Monday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that those waging “economic war” against his country through US sanctions could not expect to “remain safe.”

Zarif was speaking after talks with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on the future of the JCPOA.

Maas acknowledged that the economic benefits Tehran hoped for from the deal were now “more difficult to obtain” but urged it to fully respect the agreement.

US Navy aircraft carrier strike group and a US Air Force B-52H bomber conduct joint exercises in the Arabian sea, June 1, 2019. (MCS Brian M. Wilbur/U.S. Navy via AP)

The JCPOA was struck between Iran and six major powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — in 2015.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have worsened in recent weeks, and have seen the US beefing up its military presence in the Middle East in response to alleged threats from the Islamic Republic.

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