UN watchdog in crisis talks as Iran boosts nuclear fuel

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Iran's nuclear technology organisation chief Ali Akbar Salehi during the "nuclear technology day" in Tehran in April. (HO / Iranian Presidency / AFP)
Updated 07 July 2019

UN watchdog in crisis talks as Iran boosts nuclear fuel

  • Regime must be held accountable, says US
  • Iran has breached the limit of 300kg for stockpiles of enriched uranium

TEHRAN/VIENNA: The UN’s atomic watchdog has called an emergency crisis meeting to discuss Iran’s growing expansion of its nuclear program.

Tehran has already breached the 300 kg limit for stockpiles of enriched uranium under the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and a senior aide to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei threatened on Saturday to further boost its uranium enrichment.

The process “will increase as much as needed for our peaceful activities,” international affairs adviser Ali Akbar Velayati said. “For the Bushehr nuclear reactor we need 5 percent enrichment.”

The 2015 deal capped Iran’s enrichment maximum at 3.67 percent, sufficient for power generation but far below the 90 percent level required for a nuclear weapon.

Bushehr, Iran’s only nuclear power station, currently runs on imported fuel from Russia that is closely monitored by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Increasing enrichment closer to weapons-grade was “unanimously agreed upon by every component of the establishment,” Velayati said.

“We will show reaction exponentially as much as they violate it. We reduce our commitments as much as they reduce it. If they go back to fulfilling their commitments, we will do so as well.”

HIGHLIGHT

Analysts say Iran’s breaches so far mean little in terms of developing a nuclear weapon, but are ‘nuclear blackmail’ to pressure the other signatories to the JCPOA into helping Iran to avoid US economic sanctions.

The emergency meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors on Wednesday was requested by Ambassador Jackie Wolcott, the US representative to the IAEA and other international organizations in Vienna.

The US mission in Vienna described as “concerning” the IAEA’s latest report on Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA, confirming that Tehran had exceeded the permitted stockpile of enriched uranium.

“The international community must hold Iran’s regime accountable,” the US mission said.

Analysts say Iran’s breaches so far mean little in terms of developing a nuclear weapon, but are “nuclear blackmail” to pressure the other signatories to the JCPOA into helping Iran to avoid US economic sanctions.

However, a larger stockpile of enriched uranium combined with increased enrichment levels narrows the one-year window experts believe Iran would need to have enough material to build a nuclear bomb if it chose to do so.

“This would be a very worrisome step that could substantially shorten the time Iran would need to produce the material needed for nuclear weapons,” said Miles Pomper, a senior fellow at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ James Marin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

“Both Iran and the Trump administration should be looking for ways to de-escalate the crisis, rather than exacerbate it.”


Turkey may suspend ties with UAE over Israel deal, Erdogan says

Updated 16 min 58 sec ago

Turkey may suspend ties with UAE over Israel deal, Erdogan says

  • Turkey has diplomatic and trade ties with Israel, but relations have been strained for years

ISTANBUL: Turkey is considering suspending diplomatic ties with the UAE and withdrawing its ambassador over the Gulf state’s accord to normalize ties with Israel, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.
The Turkish foreign ministry said history would never forgive the UAE’s “hypocritical behavior” in agreeing such a deal, which recasts the order of Middle East politics.
Under the US-brokered deal, the first between Israel and a Gulf Arab country, the Jewish state agreed to suspend its planned annexation of areas of the occupied West Bank. Palestinian leaders have denounced it as a “stab in the back” to their cause.

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READ MORE: UAE, Israel reach ‘historic deal’ to normalize relations

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“The move against Palestine is not a step that can be stomached. Now, Palestine is either closing or withdrawing its embassy. The same thing is valid for us now,” Erdogan said, adding he gave orders to his foreign minister.
“I told him we may also take a step in the direction of suspending diplomatic ties with the Abu Dhabi leadership or pulling back our ambassador,” he told reporters after Friday prayers.
The Foreign Ministry had earlier said Palestinians were right to reject the deal in which the UAE betrayed their cause.
“History and the conscience of the region’s peoples will not forget and never forgive this hypocritical behavior,” it said. “It is extremely worrying that the UAE should, with a unilateral action, try and do away with the (2002) Arab Peace Plan developed by the Arab League.”
Turkey has diplomatic and trade ties with Israel, but relations have been strained for years. In 2010 Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists trying to breach a blockade on the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.
The deal makes UAE the third Arab country to establish full relations with Israel, after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.