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EU Voices Concern Over Iran’s Non-Compliance with Nuclear Commitments

EU Voices Concern Over Iran’s Non-Compliance with Nuclear Commitments

Wednesday, 22 June, 2022 - 07:00
Iran's underground Fordow nuclear facility outside of Qom, Iran, October 23, 2021. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)

The European Union has expressed concern over Iran’s non-compliance with its nuclear commitments.


Talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal are ongoing, EU spokesman for foreign affairs and security policy Peter Stano told a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday.


“We are very close to reach a final agreement, but we are not there yet,” he added, stressing that this requires diplomatic effort, without providing more details on outstanding issues.


He affirmed that the EU is responsible for coordinating among negotiating parties and can’t comment on the talks, AFP reported.


The nuclear pact seemed near revival in March, but talks were thrown into disarray partly over whether the United States might remove the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which controls elite armed and intelligence forces that Washington accuses of a global terrorist campaign, from its Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.


In 2018 then-US President Donald Trump reneged on the deal, under which Iran restrained its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions, prompting Iran to begin violating its core nuclear limits about a year later.


The US and Iran blame each other for the stalled talks.


Iran said on Monday that Tehran is ready to reach a “good deal” with world powers, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh told a televised news conference, blaming the US for stalling talks to revive the nuclear pact.


“Even today, we are ready to return to Vienna to reach a good deal if Washington fulfils its commitments,” Khatibzadeh said.


Meanwhile, Iran is escalating its uranium enrichment further by preparing to use advanced IR-6 centrifuges at its underground Fordow site that can more easily switch between enrichment levels, a United Nations nuclear watchdog report seen by Reuters on Monday showed.


The move is the latest of several steps Iran had long threatened to take but held off carrying out until 30 of the 35 countries on the International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors backed a resolution this month criticizing it for failing to explain uranium traces found at undeclared sites.


The IAEA’s inspectors verified on Saturday that Iran was ready to feed uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas, the material centrifuges enrich, into the second of two cascades, or clusters, of IR-6 centrifuges installed at Fordow, a site dug into mountain, the confidential IAEA report to member states said.


Iran informed the IAEA on Monday that passivation of the cascade, a process that precedes enrichment and also involves feeding UF6 into the machines, had begun on Sunday.


Importantly, the 166-machine cascade is the only one to have so-called “modified sub-headers,” which make it easier to switch to enriching to other purity levels.


Western diplomats have long pointed to that equipment as a source of concern since it could enable Iran to quickly enrich to higher levels.


Iran has also not told the agency clearly what purity the cascade will enrich to after passivation. Iran had previously informed the IAEA that the two IR-6 cascades could be used to enrich to 5% or 20% purity.


“The Agency has yet to receive clarification from Iran as to which mode of production it intends to implement for the aforementioned cascade, following the completion of passivation,” the report said, which the IAEA confirmed.


At a different site, Iran is already enriching to up to 60%, close to the roughly 90% of weapons-grade and far above the 2015 deal's cap of 3.67%.


Iran has breached many of the deal’s limits in response to the US withdrawal from the deal in 2018 and its reimposition of sanctions. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.


In response to the Board of Governors' resolution, Iran has ordered the removal of IAEA cameras installed under the 2015 deal and pressed ahead with the installation of IR-6 centrifuges at an underground plant at Natanz, where the deal lets it enrich but only with far less efficient IR-1 machines.


The 2015 deal does not allow uranium enrichment at Fordow.


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