UN watchdog confirms another Iranian breach of nuclear deal

UN watchdog confirms another Iranian breach of nuclear deal
A technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran, 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran. (File/AP)
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Updated 14 January 2021

UN watchdog confirms another Iranian breach of nuclear deal

UN watchdog confirms another Iranian breach of nuclear deal
  • Iran maintains its plans to conduct research and development on uranium metal production are part of its “declared aim to design an improved type of fuel”
  • Uranium metal can also be used for a nuclear bomb

BERLIN: The United Nations’ atomic watchdog agency confirmed Thursday that Iran has informed it that the country has begun installing equipment for the production of uranium metal, which would be another violation of the landmark nuclear deal with world powers.
Iran maintains its plans to conduct research and development on uranium metal production are part of its “declared aim to design an improved type of fuel,” the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said. Uranium metal can also be used for a nuclear bomb, however, and research on its production is specifically prohibited in the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed with world powers in 2015.
The ultimate goal of the deal is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, something Iran insists it does not want to do. Iran now has enough enriched uranium to make a bomb, but nowhere near the amount it had before the nuclear deal was signed.
IAEA inspectors visited the Isfahan plant where Iran has said it plans to conduct the research on Jan. 10, and officials were informed by Tehran on Jan. 13 that “modification and installation of the relevant equipment for the mentioned R&D activities have been already started,” the agency said.
Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, repeated that in a tweet on Wednesday, adding that “natural uranium will be used to produce uranium metal in the first stage.”
He told Iran’s official news agency IRNA that the move will elevate Iran to the level of “progressive nations in production of new fuels.”
It was the latest in a string of violations of the JCPOA that Iran has undertaken since President Donald Trump pulled the United States unilaterally out of the deal in 2018, saying it needed to be re-negotiated.
Tehran has been using the violations to put pressure on the other signatories — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — to provide more incentives to Iran to offset crippling American sanctions reimposed after the US exited the deal.
President-elect Joe Biden, who was vice president when the JCPOA was negotiated, has said he hopes to return the US to the deal.
Britain, France and Germany said last week, however, that Iran “risks compromising” chances of diplomacy with Washington after Tehran announced another violation — that it was starting to enrich uranium to 20% purity, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.
The foreign ministers of the three European nations said in a joint statement then that the Iranian activity “has no credible civil justification.” They said the enrichment was a clear violation of the deal and “further hollows out the agreement.”
Germany’s Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment Thursday, but the announcement on the production of uranium metal now further complicates trying to get Washington back on board.
Those working to save the deal also note that despite the violations, Iran continues to allow inspectors to access all sites in the country.


Israeli police prevent Dome of the Rock repairs

Israeli police prevent Dome of the Rock repairs
This picture shows the Dome of the Rock at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Jerusalem's Old City on July 27, 2018, after the site was reopened. (AFP)
Updated 25 January 2021

Israeli police prevent Dome of the Rock repairs

Israeli police prevent Dome of the Rock repairs
  • Council set to denounce action that is ‘violation of understandings’

AMMAN: Israeli police have stopped workers from the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf from renovating the Dome of the Rock for two consecutive days, raising tensions in the old city.

Azzam Khatib, director of the Jordanian Waqf department in Jerusalem, informed Jordan’s Ambassador in Tel Aviv Ghassan Majali and Minister of Waqf in Amman Mohammed Khalaileh of the news.

Israeli officials claim the decision was made after an individual tried to renovate the ceiling of the Bab Al-Rahmeh mosque, which Israel has demanded Muslims to vacate, without reason.

The Jerusalem Waqf Council is expected to issue a strong statement denouncing the Israeli action, calling it a violation of understandings.

Bassam Hallaq, the Waqf engineer in charge of the renovation, said that Israeli police stopped work on the gold-plated Dome of the Rock on Saturday and Sunday, and prevented urgent electric work, too.

Israel insists that any renovation or repair must be pre-approved. The renovation is not structural.

Arab News has learned that the Israeli actions on Saturday and Sunday followed the efforts of an unknown Palestinian whose face was covered, who climbed the roof of the Bab Al-Rahmeh mosque in order to apply cement to stop leaks.

Israel has forbidden any repair work on the mosque.

Hallaq said that all repair work in the entire Al-Aqsa compound has also been suspended by Israel.

The mosque’s engineer insists that the Waqf has no cement materials inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and that Friday was a holiday when staff did not work.

Sheikh Omar Kisswani, director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, told reporters that repairs to the entire 144 dunum Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa mosque compound were the right of the Islamic Waqf and that the Israeli police have no right to interfere in their work.

A spokesman for the Israeli police told Arab News that the “subject isn’t under the responsibility of the Israeli police.”