Netanyahu vows no nukes for Iran as Tehran boosts enriched uranium

The Israeli premiere responded to statements by the IAEA chief that Iran’s low-enriched uranium “production rate is increasing.”

By World Israel News and AP

Yukiya Amano, the head of the United Nations’ atomic watchdog organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), urged world powers Monday to continue dialogue with Iran to keep it in the 2015 deal aimed at preventing the country from building nuclear weapons, and to help defuse mounting tensions in the region.

After his regular update to the IAEA’s board of governors in Vienna, Amano told reporters that Tehran had increased its uranium enrichment activities as it threatened it would.

He said Iran’s low-enriched uranium “production rate is increasing,” but it wasn’t clear yet whether it has exceeded the limitations set in the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, which is known colloquially as the Iran nuclear deal.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the latest report of stepped-up Iranian uranium enrichment by repeating his vow that “[Israel] will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons which would endanger us and the entire world.”

The 2015 nuclear deal reached between Tehran and six world powers was supposed to keep Tehran from building atomic weapons in exchange for economic incentives. In May 2018, President Donald Trump announced that he was pulling the U.S. out of the accords and increasing sanctions on Iran.

This step has taken a toll on the Iranian economy and left the other countries involved — Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia — struggling to find ways to keep the accord alive.

Amano said Tehran’s decision on May 8 to give those countries 60 days to come up with a plan to shield Iran from American sanctions had heightened tensions. If no plan emerges, Tehran said it would ramp up its enrichment of uranium beyond the purity allowed under the nuclear deal.

Following the May 8 announcement, Tehran said it had increased its uranium-enrichment production capacity, though only of the lower-enriched uranium permitted by the agreement.

“I am worried about increasing tensions over the Iranian nuclear issue,” Amano said. “As I have constantly emphasized, the nuclear-related commitments entered into by Iran under the JCPOA represent a significant gain for nuclear verification — I, therefore, hope that ways can be found to reduce current tensions through dialogue.”

He would not elaborate on what kind of talks was necessary, saying that was a “political matter,” and would not comment on whether he thought the U.S should return to the JCPOA itself.

In a confidential regular report distributed to member states at the end of May, the IAEA said in the past quarter, Iran had stayed within key limitations set by the deal.

At the same time, it reported that in the quarter, Iran’s stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and heavy water are growing and raised questions for the first time about Iran’s adherence to a key but vague provision intended to limit the country’s use of advanced centrifuges.

Amano told reporters it was not the IAEA’s function to say whether Iran was in compliance with the JCPOA, though it has at times where it is “crystal clear.”

Since Iran’s May 8 announcement, however, Amano said it was no longer appropriate for the IAEA to assess compliance, deferring instead to the JCPOA nations to make that judgment.

“I did not say Iran is implementing (the JCPOA), but I did not say Iran is not implementing either,” he said.