Nuclear watchdog: Iran blocking access to two sites

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

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.”


Pentagon includes Israel in Middle East command area

Pentagon includes Israel in Middle East command area
Updated 49 min 6 sec ago

Pentagon includes Israel in Middle East command area

Pentagon includes Israel in Middle East command area
  • Moving Israel under the Central Command potentially makes security cooperation with the US on regional matters easier
  • The move could bring Israeli military officials in closer proximity to those of Gulf neighbors

WASHINGTON: The US Defense Department announced Friday that it would include close ally Israel in the area covered by its Middle East-focused Central Command.
In another sign of the rapprochement brokered by President Donald Trump between Israel and Arab countries, the Pentagon said US military dealings with Israel would no longer be handled by its European Command.
“We structure boundaries to best mitigate risk and protect US interests and partners,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“The easing of tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbors subsequent to the Abraham Accords has provided a strategic opportunity for the United States to align key partners against shared threats in the Middle East.”
That was mainly a reference to Iran, which the United States, Israel and Arab countries view as the leading security threat to the region.
For decades at odds with its Arab neighbors over its treatment of Palestinians, Israel has over the past year broken barriers on open cooperation and communications with Gulf countries under the Trump-fostered Abraham Accords.
Moving it under the Central Command potentially makes security cooperation with the United States on regional matters easier, and could bring Israeli military officials in closer proximity to those of Gulf neighbors.
But it could also complicate CentCom cooperation with Iran allies like Iraq, where the US retains 2,500 troops.
“Israel is a leading strategic partner for the United States, and this will open up additional opportunities for cooperation with our US Central Command partners, while maintaining strong cooperation between Israel and our European allies,” the Pentagon said.