UN watchdog: Iran continues to grow uranium stockpile in breach of nuclear deal
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Tehran is also testing advanced centrifuges

UN watchdog: Iran continues to grow uranium stockpile in breach of nuclear deal

In confidential report, IAEA says Islamic Republic now holds 242.6 kg of enriched material at 4.5% purity

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

The UN atomic watchdog reported Friday that Iran remains in violation of limitations set by the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers and is growing its stockpile of enriched uranium.

In a confidential quarterly report distributed to member states, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran’s has increased its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to 241.6 kg — beyond the 202.8 kg limit stipulated by the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

It also said Iran continues to enrich uranium up to 4.5 percent, above the 3.67% allowed.

The violations were announced by Iran, and confirmed by the IAEA last month, and are meant to put pressure on the signatories to the JCPOA to provide more economic incentives.

Enriched uranium at the 3.67% level is enough for peaceful pursuits but is far below weapons-grade levels of 90%. At the 4.5% level, it is enough to help power Iran’s Bushehr reactor, the country’s only nuclear power plant.

Illustrative: An unidentified International Atomic Energy Agency inspector cuts the connections between the twin cascades for 20 percent uranium enrichment at the Natanz facility, some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, January 20, 2014. (AP/IRNA, Kazem Ghane)

The nuclear deal is meant to keep Tehran from building atomic weapons in exchange for economic relief. It has been complicated by the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the deal last year and Washington’s increased sanctions, which have been taking a toll on the Iranian economy.

That has left the other signatories — Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China — struggling to come up with enough incentives to keep Iran in the deal.

So far, the major powers in the JCPOA have expressed concern about Tehran’s violations and urged the country to return to the limitations set in the agreement but haven’t taken further action.

In Friday’s report, the IAEA said that Iran has continued to permit its inspectors to monitor its nuclear facilities and has also remained within limitations set on its stockpiles of heavy water.

General view of the board of governors meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, August 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

In its previous quarterly report, it noted that Iran had installed “up to 33” more advanced IR-6 centrifuges, used to enrich uranium and that 10 had been tested.

Under terms of the nuclear deal, Iran is allowed to test no more than 30 of the IR-6s once the deal has been in place for 8.5 years. The deal is murky about limits before that point, which will arrive in 2023.

In the current report it repeated that Iran had installed “up to 33” of the IR-6 centrifuges, but said 11 have now been tested, and that “technical discussions in relation to the IR-6 centrifuges are ongoing.”

The IAEA report comes days after Iran’s foreign minister announced Tehran will soon further curb its adherence to the nuclear deal unless it can reach an agreement with European powers.

“The third phase [of freezing nuclear obligations] will start on September 6,” Zarif told the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung in an interview published Tuesday, according to a translation by Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

Iran has accused the EU signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal — Britain, France and Germany — of failing to provide sufficient economic relief since US President Donald Trump pulled out of the accord last May and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

Trump has faulted the agreement, which was also signed by China and Russia, for not addressing Iran’s ballistic missile program or support of terror proxy groups in the region.

The publication of the interview came as Zarif ruled out the possibility of a meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Trump, after the US president said Monday that such a sit-down was possible if the right conditions were met.

Trump’s announcement came a day after Zarif received a sudden invite from French President Emmanuel Macron to meet on the sidelines of the G7 meeting in France.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif holds talks in Biarritz on August 25, 2019 with France’s President Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (Handout photo via AFP)

Zarif has called such a meeting unthinkable and said the US president must first lift sanctions imposed on Tehran. Macron has meanwhile said his efforts to bring Iran and the US together are “fragile,” but he believes that there is still a “possible path” to rapprochement after decades of conflict.

In a phone call Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Macron not to negotiate with Iran.

According to a readout from his office, the Israeli premier said that, with Tehran increasing its regional aggression and threatening Israel and others, “now is “precisely not the time” to hold conciliatory talks with the regime.

Trump’s apparent openness to the notion of talks with Iran has reportedly caused intense concern in Jerusalem and a Channel 13 report Thursday said Netanyahu made “frantic” efforts to reach Trump on Sunday to dissuade the US president from meeting with Zarif, but was unable to reach him.

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