Nuclear watchdog: Iran blocking access to two sites

The UN nuclear watchdog has expressed serious concern at Iran’s failure to grant it access to two suspect locations for more than four months. (File/AFP)
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Updated 07 June 2020

Nuclear watchdog: Iran blocking access to two sites

  • Iran increasingly in contravention with terms of nuclear deal
  • The country's uranium stockpile nearly eight times higher than the level agreed in 2015 deal

LONDON: The UN nuclear watchdog has expressed serious concern at Iran’s failure to grant it access to two suspect locations for more than four months.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran had blocked inspections at two locations that it believed were active long before the internationally brokered 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
According to the report, the agency has questions regarding the possible “use or storage of nuclear material” at the two sites and claims that one of them “may have been used for the processing and conversion of uranium ore including fluorination in 2003.”
In an unreleased report expected to be published mid-June the Vienna-based IAEA expresses “serious concern” that the agency was barred from entering the sites.
The nuclear watchdog also said Tehran had not clarified its response to their questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities.
In a separate report, the agency also noted that as of May 20 Iran had a stockpile of 1,571.6 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, nearly eight times the 202.8 kilogram limit agreed as part of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran has rapidly accumulated uranium in 2020, with their stockpile growing by 550 kilograms since Feb. 19.
The stockpile’s highest level of enrichment now stands at 4.5 percent — breaching the 2015 agreement’s 3.67 percent limit.
In July 2015, Iran signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the US, Germany, France, Russia, China and the European Union, which curbed Iran’s nuclear weapons program in return for economic incentives.
Under the deal, Tehran agreed that “under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.”
Iran also agreed to a monitoring regime that would allow international inspectors to gain access to sites suspected of nuclear weapons-related activities.
The IAEA’s latest findings come amid heightened tensions between Iran and the USA, which withdrew from the deal, with President Trump calling it the “worst deal ever.”


Egyptian churches open doors to visitors

Egyptian army soldier stands guard in front of Saint Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Cairo, Egypt December 31, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 min 40 sec ago

Egyptian churches open doors to visitors

  • The regulations for the gradual return of Friday prayers will only be announced after they are discussed by the Council of Ministers.

CAIRO: Coptic Orthodox churches in Egypt are accepting visitors after a four-month closure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The decision to shut the churches came during a Standing Committee meeting with the Holy Synod headed by Pope Tawadros on March 21.
The reopening on Aug. 3 coincides with the birthday of the late Pope Shenouda III.
Churches in Cairo and Alexandria accepted worshippers for prayers, while those in cities where the outbreak was limited, such as Luxor, reopened in June. Churches have taken steps to ensure the safety of visitors and staff, including regular cleaning and monitoring of visitors’ health and adherence to guidelines.
When visitors enter churches, body temperatures are checked and there is a disinfection process. Shoes are cleaned with a piece of chlorine-soaked cloth and ethyl alcohol is used to wash hands. Each visitor must bring their own handkerchief. All worshippers must wear face masks and maintain safe distances from one another.
The Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf said the regulations for the gradual return of Friday prayers will only be announced after they are discussed by the Council of Ministers.
In a bid to stop the spread of misinformation surrounding the plans, the ministry said the only accurate source of official information is through its website.
The ministry denied rumors that precautionary measures would include cutting the length of Friday sermons to 10 minutes.
Abdullah Hassan, spokesman for the Ministry of Awqaf, said that no official announcement on the return of Friday prayers has been made.
Hassan added that there have been several meetings on the issue of Friday prayers. The findings will be presented to the coronavirus crisis management committee following the Eid Al-Adha holiday.
Hassan urged Egyptian media outlets to ensure the accuracy and truthfulness of news. He added that people should report individuals who makes false claims.