UN nuclear watchdog meets on Iran’s atomic agenda

Top International Atomic Energy Agency officials will meet today to assess Iran’s compliance with a six-month nuclear freeze agreed under an interim deal with world powers last November.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said yesterday that despite “thousands of hours” of inspection, the United Nations’ atomic watchdog had found no evidence of military objectives in Iran’s nuclear drive.

Rouhani spoke after Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday said nuclear negotiations were “going well”.

“I’m hoping by the first deadline (July 20) we will reach an agreement,” he added.

On the sidelines of the meeting of the IAEA’s 35-member Board of Governors — their second official parley this year — Iran will hold expert-level talks with world powers.

In its latest report on Iran last month, the IAEA said Iran was sticking to the nuclear freeze it agreed under the November interim deal.

The watchdog’s report came a month after the deal came into force.

Iran and the so-called P5+1 group of world powers — UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany — are seeking to reach a lasting accord that would allay Western suspicions that Tehran’s nuclear activities mask military objectives.

As part of such a comprehensive deal, the six seek to pressure Iran over its ballistic missile programme, which could theoretically provide Tehran with a device to deliver a nuclear warhead, should it choose to build one.

The IAEA said last month that uranium enrichment to medium levels — the main concern to the international community — “is no longer taking place”, as agreed in the November deal.

The IAEA also said that a proportion of Iran’s medium-enriched uranium stockpile “is being down-blended, and the remainder is being converted to uranium oxide”.

Enrichment to low purities however “continues at a rate of production similar to that indicated” in the last report from November, meaning that Iran’s stockpile of this material rose in the last three months.

This is consistent with the agreement with world powers, as long as by the end of the six-month period on July 20 the stockpile is not higher than at the start.

Iran is currently building a facility to convert this type of material to oxide form, from which it would be more difficult to enrich to weapons grade, the IAEA report said.

In addition, Iran has not installed any additional uranium enrichment centrifuges at either of its facilities, Natanz and Fordo, according to the IAEA.

By Business Standard


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