Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Khamenei threatens further uranium enrichment – Iran


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday in a contribution to the UN disarmament conference in Geneva that Washington wanted to continue and “strengthen” the agreement. Blinken also discussed this with the EU foreign ministers. Iran’s top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is threatening uranium enrichment that goes well beyond the limit agreed in the agreement.

“We will increase to the level that the country needs … We can increase it to 60 percent,” state television station Khamenei quoted as saying on Monday. The US and the Europeans had expressed themselves “unfairly” to Iran. “Iran will not bow to pressure. Our attitude will not change.”

The 2015 nuclear pact stipulates that Iran may enrich uranium up to a maximum of 3.67 percent. Before the deal was signed, Iran had made it to 20 percent. Weapons-grade uranium must be enriched to around 90 percent. The deal has been on the brink since the US unilaterally terminated it in 2018 during Donald Trump’s presidency and Iran then began to gradually reduce its commitments. Trump’s successor Joe Biden has signaled an interest in re-entering the country, but expects Iran to accommodate him. The aim of the agreement is to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Khamenei reiterated on Monday that his country will never seek to build nuclear weapons.

In Geneva, Blinken insisted that Tehran meet the requirements of the Vienna nuclear deal, including controls by the IAEA. They also want to address Iran’s “destabilizing behavior” in the region and the country’s missile program.

Schallenberg offers Vienna as a venue for negotiations

Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP) welcomed the visit of IAEA chief Rafael Grossi to Iran. That “has now given us a breathing space of three months. The patient is stabilized, so to speak, now diplomacy has to gain a foothold”. Now “Europe would be called upon to draft the steps here where both sides can get out of this stalemate while saving face”.

The Vienna nuclear deal concluded in 2015 was not particularly popular in Washington or Tehran, but there was “actually no alternative” to it, Schallenberg emphasized in the Ö1 morning journal. “Without this deal, Iran might already have the atomic bomb. There is no alternative if we want to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Gulf region.”

While Schallenberg again offered Vienna as a venue for negotiations, the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, representing one of the three European parties to the deal, affirmed that Berlin expects Tehran “nothing less than full compliance with the agreement”.

IAEA is allowed to control

On Sunday in Tehran, Grossi had received a promise from Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Zalehi that the authority could continue its controls of the Iranian nuclear program for three months at least to a limited extent. The inspectors did not have the same extensive access as before, but he expected that they could do their job, said Grossi after his return to Vienna.

The Iranian nuclear organization AEOI declared, as ordered by parliament, that from Tuesday, Iran would no longer work with the IAEA within the framework of the IAEA additional protocol, but only on the basis of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. As a result, there will be restrictions on inspections of the facilities.

The 2015 Vienna nuclear agreement between Tehran and the five UN veto powers and Germany was intended to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, in return the sanctions against Tehran should be lifted. However, under President Donald Trump, the United States got out of the deal in 2018 and again imposed sanctions to bring down Iran economically. Because the other partners of the agreement actually also adhered to the US sanctions, since May 2019 Iran has been step by step distance from the agreement and increasingly no longer adheres to agreements.

Iran is mainly concerned with the sanctions that plunged the oil-rich country into the worst economic crisis in its history. This could also have domestic political consequences in the Iranian election year. Tehran declares that it will not be ready for nuclear negotiations with the US government under Joe Biden until the US reverts to the agreement and lifts its sanctions. (apa, dpa, afp, reuters)



#Khamenei #threatens #uranium #enrichment #Iran

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