Monday , 24 January 2022

Iran Submits Drafts On Nuclear Issues; UN Agency Cites Further Violations Of Deal

RFL/RE – Tehran says a deal with global powers to salvage a landmark 2015 nuclear deal is within reach even as the UN’s atomic watchdog said the country further violated the accord by starting to produce enriched uranium with more efficient centrifuges at its underground Fordow facility.

Iran’s chief negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Khani, said on December 2 his team had handed two drafts on the removal of sanctions and nuclear commitments to the negotiating group representing France, Germany, Britain, Russia, and China as the two sides look to make progress on day four of indirect talks aimed at bringing Iran and the United States fully back into the agreement.

However, a December 1 announcement by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) appeared to undercut the talks that resumed this week after a five-month recess.

The IAEA said in a report that Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to up to 20 percent purity with a cascade of 166 advanced IR-6 machines at its Fordow fuel-enrichment plant, 135 kilometers from Tehran.

Until now, Iran had been producing enriched uranium at Fordow with first-generation IR-1 machines. The 2015 nuclear deal does not allow Iran to enrich uranium there at all.

Amid Western suspicions that Tehran is taking actions to gain leverage at the Vienna talks, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi made clear he viewed the development with concern, and reiterated his call for unrestricted access by IAEA inspectors to Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“This redoubles the alert. It is not banal. Iran can do it, but if you have such an ambition you need to accept inspections. It’s necessary,” Grossi told French broadcaster France-24 on December 2.

According to the IAEA report, cited by Reuters, the nuclear watchdog “has decided and Iran has agreed to increase the frequency of verification activities at [Fordow] and will continue consultations with Iran on practical arrangements to facilitate implementation of these activities.”

The nuclear accord imposed curbs on Iran’s nuclear activities in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.SEE ALSO:IAEA Chief Issues Warning Over Iran’s Inspection Curbs At Nuclear Facility

Iran, which denies it wants to acquire nuclear weapons, has gradually breached limits imposed by the pact since then-President Donald Trump pulled the United States out in 2018 and started reimposing the sanctions, which have hit Iran hard.

U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the deal if Iran returns to full compliance, but Tehran wants Washington to make the first move.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tweeted late on December 1 that an agreement to revive the deal was “within reach,” but this depended on the goodwill of the West.

Khani told reporters in Vienna on December 2 after delivering the two drafts that if “they are ready to continue the talks, we are in Vienna to continue the talks.”

A European diplomat confirmed to Reuters that draft documents had been handed over.

Meanwhile, Israel called on world powers to halt the negotiations immediately, saying that “Iran is carrying out nuclear blackmail as a negotiating tactic.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office quoted him as making the comments in a call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Iran’s arch-enemy Israel has fiercely opposed the 2015 deal.

Negotiations between Iran and the five remaining signatories began in Vienna in April, with U.S. representatives participating indirectly.

The talks were put on hold in June after the election of anti-Western hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s president.

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AFP