Death of Iran’s President Has Delayed Talks with IAEA, Grossi Says

 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi meets with Finnish Climate and Environment Minister Kai Mykkanen (not pictured) during the Nordic Nuclear Forum, in Helsinki, Finland May 22, 2024. (Reuters)
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi meets with Finnish Climate and Environment Minister Kai Mykkanen (not pictured) during the Nordic Nuclear Forum, in Helsinki, Finland May 22, 2024. (Reuters)
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Death of Iran’s President Has Delayed Talks with IAEA, Grossi Says

 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi meets with Finnish Climate and Environment Minister Kai Mykkanen (not pictured) during the Nordic Nuclear Forum, in Helsinki, Finland May 22, 2024. (Reuters)
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi meets with Finnish Climate and Environment Minister Kai Mykkanen (not pictured) during the Nordic Nuclear Forum, in Helsinki, Finland May 22, 2024. (Reuters)

The deaths of Iran's president and foreign minister in a helicopter crash have caused a pause in the UN nuclear watchdog's talks with Tehran over improving cooperation with the agency, the watchdog's chief Rafael Grossi told Reuters on Wednesday.

"They are in a mourning period which I need to respect," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Grossi said in Helsinki, where he spoke at a nuclear conference.

"But once this is over, we are going to be engaging again," he said, describing it as a "temporary interruption that I hope will be over in a matter of days".

Grossi said the IAEA was planning to continue technical discussions with Iran but they had not yet taken place due to last weekend's helicopter crash that killed President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

The IAEA faces a range of challenges in Iran, from Tehran's recent barring of many of the most experienced uranium-enrichment experts on its inspection team to Iran's continued failure to explain uranium traces found at undeclared sites despite a years-long IAEA investigation.

The IAEA has been trying to expand its oversight of Iran's atomic activities while the country's uranium-enrichment program continues to advance. Iran is enriching uranium to up to 60% purity, close to the 90% of weapons-grade, which no other country has done without developing nuclear weapons.

Tehran says its aims are entirely peaceful.

Iran currently has about 140 kg of uranium enriched to up to 60%, Grossi said. According to an IAEA definition, that is theoretically enough, if enriched further, for three nuclear bombs. The IAEA's last quarterly report in February said Iran had 121.5 kg, enough for two bombs.

Iran is still producing about nine kg a month of uranium enriched to up to 60%, Grossi said. It is also enriching to lower levels at which it has enough material for potentially more bombs.

Grossi, who two weeks ago said he wanted to start to see concrete results on improved cooperation from Iran soon, repeated that hope but said a more wide-ranging deal would require "a bit more time".

For now, his team had not made progress on the main issues, he said.

"It is high time there is some concrete issuance and if not resolution, some clarification of what this is," Grossi said of the uranium traces at undeclared sites.

"And I would say, confidence in many parts of the world (in Iran on the nuclear issue) is growing thinner.



President: Philippines Not in Business of Instigating Wars

FILE PHOTO: Philippines' President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. looks on as he meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, March 19, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Philippines' President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. looks on as he meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, March 19, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/File Photo
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President: Philippines Not in Business of Instigating Wars

FILE PHOTO: Philippines' President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. looks on as he meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, March 19, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Philippines' President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. looks on as he meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, March 19, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/File Photo

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said on Sunday his country is not in the business of instigating wars and will always aim to settle disputes peacefully, amid escalating maritime confrontations with China.
"In defending the nation, we stay true to our Filipino nature that we would like to settle all these issues peacefully," Marcos said in a speech to troops of the Western Command unit in charge of overseeing the South China Sea.
Philippine navy personnel and the Chinese coast guard had their latest clash during a routine resupply mission by Manila in the South China Sea last week, in which it said a sailor was severely injured and vessels damaged.
China's Coast Guard personnel carrying knives and spears looted firearms and "deliberately punctured" Philippine boats involved in the mission, the Philippine military said.
China disputed the Philippine account, with a foreign ministry spokesperson saying on Thursday the necessary measures taken were lawful, professional and beyond reproach.
Marcos, who did not name China in his speech, commended the troops for exercising restraint "amidst intense provocation", and said his country would always exercise its freedoms and rights in line with international law.
"In the performance of our duties, we will not resort to the use of force or intimidation, or deliberately inflict injury or harm to anyone," Reuters quoted Marcos as saying. "We stand firm. Our calm and peaceful disposition should not be mistaken for acquiescence."
Recent maritime run-ins between China and the Philippines, a US treaty ally in Southeast Asia, have made the highly strategic South China Sea a potential flashpoint between Washington and Beijing.
The United States has condemned China's actions and reaffirmed its ironclad defense commitments against any attack on Philippine aircraft or vessels in the South China Sea under their mutual defense treaty.
But the Philippines said on Friday there was no reason to invoke the treaty because China's actions, which security officials have described as escalatory, could not be classified as an "armed attack".
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion of annual shipborne commerce, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said China's claims had no legal basis, a decision Beijing has rejected.
"We are not in the business to instigate wars - our great ambition is to provide a peaceful and prosperous life for every Filipino," Marcos said. "We refuse to play by the rules that force us to choose sides in a great power competition."