US sanctions Iran’s nuclear organisation, to renew waivers on Iran nuclear work

The US on Thursday imposed sanctions on Iran's nuclear entity, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, and one of its top officials. (AP/File Photo)
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Updated 30 January 2020

US sanctions Iran’s nuclear organisation, to renew waivers on Iran nuclear work

  • Sources said it will allow Russian, Chinese and European firms to continue work at Iranian nuclear sites

WASHINGTON: The US on Thursday imposed sanctions on Iran's nuclear entity and its top official, the Treasury Department said, but sources said it will allow Russian, Chinese and European firms to continue work at Iranian nuclear sites to make it harder for that country to develop a nuclear weapon.

The Trump administration, which in 2018 pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran, will let the work go forward by issuing waivers to sanctions that bar non-US firms from dealing with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the sources said on condition of anonymity.

The waivers’ renewal for 60 days will allow nonproliferation work to continue at the Arak heavy-water research reactor, the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Tehran Research Reactor and other nuclear cooperation initiatives.

"There was a difference of opinion between the US Treasury and State Department. The Treasury won," said a Western diplomat familiar with the issue. "There is an appetite for more sanctions, so this was a surprise; but others argue that these waivers are vital to ensure nonproliferation."

A US official confirmed the waivers.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, and the organization itself have been placed under US sanctions, according to the Treasury's website.

The US special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, is scheduled to hold a news briefing on Thursday afternoon, the State Department said. He is expected to talk about the waivers and fresh sanctions.

Washington in November terminated the sanctions waiver related to Iran’s Fordow nuclear plant after Tehran resumed uranium enrichment at the underground site.

There had been a great deal of lobbying in Washington to stop the latest waivers as President Donald Trump seeks to exert more pressure on Iran. It was not immediately clear why Washington had decided to extend the waivers.

Under the 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions that had crippled its economy.

Trump unilaterally abandoned the deal in May 2018, and reimposed U.S. sanctions in a “maximum pressure” campaign designed to force Iran to return to the negotiating table.

The decision to sanction Salehi and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran would have an impact on Iran's nuclear civilian program because it has operational control over the program, including purchasing parts for nuclear facilities.

The diplomat said the US had likely opted to extend the Bushehr waiver because the Russian company targeted also provides nuclear fuel to US facilities, causing a potential sanctions headache for the administration.


Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

An Iranian army soldier walks through a temporary hospital in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP)
Updated 30 March 2020

Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

  • Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible”

TEHRAN: President Hassan Rouhani has warned that “the new way of life” in Iran was likely to be prolonged, as its declared death toll from the novel coronavirus rose to 2,640.
Iran is one of the countries worst-hit by the virus, which first originated in China.
Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January.
At his daily news briefing, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 123 more people in Iran had died from the virus in the past 24 hours.
He reported 2,901 new cases of COVID-19 infection, bringing the overall number of officially confirmed cases to 38,309.
According to the official, 12,391 of those hospitalized have recovered and 3,467 are in “critical” condition.
“We must prepare to live with this virus until a treatment or vaccine is discovered, which has not yet happened to date,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a Cabinet meeting.
“The new way of life we have adopted” is to everyone’s benefit, he said, adding that “these changes will likely have to stay in place for some time.”
After weeks of refraining from imposing lockdown or quarantine measures, Tehran decided Wednesday to ban all intercity travel until at least April 8.
Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible.” Schools and universities in some provinces were closed in late February and the measure was later extended to the whole country.
After Rouhani’s warning, the reopening of schools following this year’s new year holidays of March 19 to April 3 appears unlikely.

FASTFACT

Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January

On a positive note, Rouhani said he had been told by top health experts and doctors that “in some provinces we have passed the peak (of the epidemic) and are on a downward trajectory.”
Several Iranian government officials and notable figures have been infected by the new coronavirus, some of whom have died.
The most recent case of infection was Mohammed-Reza Khatami, brother of former president Mohammad Khatami and an ex-deputy speaker of parliament.
He is currently hospitalized.
Iraj Harirchi, a deputy health minister who tested positive for the virus in late February, has returned to public life and appeared on state television to emphasize safety precautions.