A top official in Tehran has dismissed the latest critical report by the UN nuclear watchdog as repetition of “politically motivated baseless accusations”.
Behruz Kamalvandi, a top-level official of Iran’s atomic energy organization, was quoted by the Fars news website as saying that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report contained no new points and was a compilation of “playing with words”.
The IAEA issued a report on Wednesday ahead of a meeting of its Board of Governors next week, as part of its quarterly reporting schedule, saying that Iran has continued its non-cooperation with the agency, as it has expanded its uranium enrichment.
Iran's stockpile of 60-percent enriched uranium, close to weapons-grade, has grown to enough, if enriched further, for a nuclear bomb, the IAEA said.
Passing that threshold is a milestone in the unravelling of the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) between Iran and world powers, which capped the purity to which Iran was allowed to enrich uranium at 3.67%, well below the 20% it achieved before the deal and the roughly 90% that is weapons grade.
Iran has more than 3,000 kilograms of enriched fissile material beyond the JCPOA limits and that is another departure from the 2015 agreement which increasingly becomes less relevant.
Kamalvandi also responded to IAEA’s point about not having full access to Iran’s nuclear sites by saying that “The reestablishment of the previous verification regime depends on other parties discharging their JCPOA obligations.”
Iran began reducing IAEA’s monitoring access to its nuclear installations in February 2021, as the Biden Administration expressed its readiness to negotiate for a return to the 2015 agreement that its predecessor had abandoned in 2018 and imposed sanctions on Iran.
After the US imposed full oil export sanctions on Iran in May 2019, Tehran announced that it would gradually reduce its commitments under the JCPOA and began enriching uranium up to 5 percent. That situation remained in place during the Trump administration, but after Joe Biden won the 2020 election, Iran announced that it was going to ramp up enrichment and reduce IAEA inspections until the US lifts its sanctions.
But Kamalvandi’s statement about monitoring to be restored after the revival of JCPOA sounds as a distant prospect, with the nuclear talks again in a limbo after 17 months of negotiations.
Reports this week indicated that there will be no quick agreement until after the US midterm Congressional elections and perhaps beyond.
Kamalvandi also attacked the international media for highlighting the IAEA report, which he said was misleading and vowed a measured and well-argued response by Iran in next weeks board meeting. The IAEA board of governors composed of more than 30 countries censured Iran on June 8 for lack of cooperation.
In addition to banning IAEA cameras and monitoring equipment in its installations, Iran has also stonewalled in an agency investigation of its pre-2003 undeclared nuclear activities, said to be weapons related. The IAEA in 2019 found traces of uranium at three sites in Iran and demands to know why the fissile material was there and what happened to it. Tehran has given some explanations, but the UN watchdog says these responses were unsatisfactory.