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France, Russia Criticize US for Ending Sanctions Waivers at Iran’s Fordow Plant

France, Russia Criticize US for Ending Sanctions Waivers at Iran’s Fordow Plant

Tuesday, 19 November, 2019 - 06:00
A satellite image of the Fordow facility in Iran, January 30, 2013. (Getty Images)

France lamented on Tuesday a US decision to end a sanctions waiver related to Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility, but also said it feared Tehran’s latest violations of a 2015 deal could lead to serious nuclear proliferation.

“We regret the decision of the United States, following Iran’s resumption of enrichment on the Fordow site, to terminate an exemption that would facilitate the conduct of civilian projects on this site,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters in an online briefing.

“France is extremely concerned by Iran’s non-compliance with its nuclear obligations, which may have serious consequences for proliferation,” she said a day after Iran breached another limit in the nuclear deal by accumulating slightly more than 130 tons of heavy water.

Moscow strongly condemned the US move and believes the decision violates US international commitments, Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

Russia is continuing its close cooperation with Iran on the Fordow reconfiguration, it said.

The United States said on Monday it will no longer waive sanctions related to Fordow after Tehran resumed uranium enrichment at the underground site.

The move is intended to end Russian and European cooperation with Iran on the once-secret site, which was supposed to become a civilian research center under the 2015 nuclear nonproliferation agreement.

“The right amount of uranium enrichment for the world’s largest state sponsor of terror is zero ... There is no legitimate reason for Iran to resume enrichment at this previously clandestine site,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters.

The UN atomic watchdog and Iran itself said this month Tehran is again enriching uranium at the sensitive site, which Iran hid from UN non-proliferation inspectors until its exposure in 2009.

"Iran should reverse its activity there immediately," Pompeo said.

While European countries have tried to salvage the nuclear agreement, Iran has increasingly distanced itself from the accord since the United States withdrew last year.

The pact requires Iran to restrain its enrichment program in exchange for the removal of most international sanctions, and it called for Fordow to be converted into a nuclear, physics and technology center.

Despite its withdrawal, the Trump administration has granted sanctions waivers that allowed foreign firms to do work in Iran that advanced non-proliferation. Those included Russia’s Rosatom at Fordow.

Pompeo said the waivers will end on December 15. The State Department had said last month that it renewed waivers for 90 days.

Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Liz Cheney praised the decision and called on the Trump administration to also end the waiver for the Arak heavy water reactor, where Chinese state-owned China National Nuclear Corp has operated.

“There is no justification for extending that waiver in light of recent confirmation that Iran is violating its heavy water obligations, let alone for letting Iran continue to build up its program – not at Fordow, and not at Arak,” the senators said in a statement.

Kelsey Davenport, director of the Arms Control Association, said Monday’s decision could further jeopardize the nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“This step further risks collapsing the JCPOA because it removes a tangible benefit to Iran under the deal,” Davenport said.

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