US said to have secretly eased Iran nuclear deal terms
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US said to have secretly eased Iran nuclear deal terms

To meet deadline, P5+1 negotiators allowed Tehran to bypass restrictions on uranium and heavy water, report says

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A meeting at the P5+1 talks with Iran at UN headquarters in Vienna, on July 3, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Joe Klamar)
A meeting at the P5+1 talks with Iran at UN headquarters in Vienna, on July 3, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Joe Klamar)

The United States and world powers that negotiated last year’s nuclear deal with Iran “secretly” agreed to allow the Islamic Republic to evade a number of the agreement’s restrictions in order to meet the deadline for the lifting of international economic sanctions, Reuters reported Thursday.

According to the report, several “knowledgeable” officials involved in the negotiations told the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security that Tehran was permitted to exceed the agreed-upon limits of how much low-enriched uranium could be kept at its nuclear facilities. Low-enriched uranium can be purified into weapons-grade uranium.

The institute also said that the P5+1 negotiating powers — the US, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — also permitted Tehran to ship 50 tons of heavy water from its Arak facility to Oman and keep it there under Iranian supervision.

Its president, David Albright, said the “exemptions or loopholes are happening in secret, and it appears that they favor Iran.”

P5+1 officials agreed to the terms so that Iran would be in compliance with the agreement by the January 16 deadline to have the sanctions lifted, the report said.

The interior of the Arak heavy water production facility in Arak, Iran, October 27, 2004. (AP/Fars News Agency, File)
The interior of the Arak heavy water production facility in Arak, Iran, October 27, 2004. (AP/Fars News Agency, File)

An unnamed White House official told Reuters the role of the joint commission of negotiating powers was “not secret,” but declined to specifically address the institute’s assertions on any loopholes.

Albright — who served as an inspector with the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency team that investigated former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program — expressed concern that the exemptions risked setting a precedent for Iran seeking additional waivers.

He said a full report detailing the exemptions afforded Tehran by P5+1 negotiators would be published by his institute later on Thursday.

Last month, a document obtained by The Associated Press in Vienna revealed that key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program imposed under the accord will ease in slightly more than a decade, cutting the time Tehran would need to build a bomb to six months or less from present estimates of a year.

Iran has insisted it is not interested in nuclear weapons, and the pact is being closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA said Tehran has essentially kept to its commitments since the agreement was implemented, a little more than six months after Iran and the six powers finalized it on July 14, 2015.

News agencies contributed to this report.

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