The US State Department said Monday that Iran has ceased all efforts to speed up its enrichment of uranium following a report over the weekend that Tehran was developing a process that get the job done at a much quicker pace.
“We raised that issue with Iran as soon as the IAEA reported it, and it was resolved immediately. The Iranians have confirmed that they will not continue that activity as cited in the IAEA report, so it’s been resolved,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Paski, adding that it was dealt with over the past few days.
The report came as the UN’s nuclear agency announced Friday that its attempts to probe allegations that Tehran worked on nuclear weapons were deadlocked — a finding that all but rules out hopes of full nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran by the November 24 target date.
A US think tank, in a reading of the report, said that in seeking a faster process, Iran was violating the interim nuclear agreement reached with world powers last year.
“Iran may have violated [the interim deal] by starting to feed [natural uranium gas] into one of its advanced centrifuges, namely the IR-5 centrifuge,” ISIS wrote in an analysis of the confidential IAEA report issued Friday to member states. “Under the interim deal, this centrifuge should not have been fed with [gas] as reported in this safeguards report.”
The IR-5 is a new centrifuge that Iran has been seeking to develop to replace the old IR-1 model. Tehran possesses only one such machine so far.
Iran has also reportedly sped up its low-grade uranium enrichment over the past two months, growing its stockpile by 8% to 8.4 tons.
The issue of advanced enrichment is sensitive because Iran could potentially produce a nuclear weapon if it processes the material further, a main concern for the West.
Iran maintains it does not seek nuclear arms. Tehran’s envoy to the IAEA responded to the report saying it showed Iran was transparent that concerns about its nuclear program are “baseless,” the semi-official Iranian Fars News Agency reported.
Nuclear negotiations between US Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the EU’s former foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Oman ahead of a November 24 deadline for an agreement have been “tough, direct, and serious,” said Psaki.
Iran and the six world powers are set to meet in Vienna on November 18 to resume negotiations.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday warned nations negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program that Tehran’s recent calls to eliminate Israel show it is “unreformed,” and urged them not to sign a bad deal.
Netanyahu’s warning came after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei posted messages on his Twitter feed outlining a nine-point plan to “eliminate Israel.”
Netanyahu said he ordered his office to send letters to foreign ministries in the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany to warn them against coming to a deal with Tehran, amid reports the sides were close to reaching an agreement to ease sanctions in return for curbs on nuclear enrichment.
The prime minister said he urged the ministers to see statements from Khamenei as proof that the country had not reformed and still sought to destroy Israel.
“The leader of this country that is depicted by some as moderate, the Islamic State of Iran, has said in the last 48 hours: 1) that he calls for the annihilation of Israel — his words, not mine; 2) he gives nine ways and reasons of how and why Israel should be annihilated — his words, not mine,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
The US on Monday issued a tepid public condemnation of Khamenei’s statement while refusing to say if the Obama administration’s displeasure would be conveyed to Iranian leaders by US officials.
“We strongly condemn the hateful remarks made about Israel on Twitter from an account linked to the supreme leader. The remarks are offensive and reprehensible, and the entire international community should condemn such rhetoric,” Psaki said.
Netanyahu accused Iran of deceiving the international community with regard to its nuclear program, which it insists is peaceful, and called Tehran a “terrorist regime.”
He said the sides should not “rush into a deal that would let Iran rush to the bomb.”
On Sunday, US President Barack Obama said a “large gap” remained between the sides, and on Monday, Vice President Joe Biden told a meeting of Jewish leaders that the US would not sign a bad deal.