Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi holds a press conference on the opening day of a quarterly meeting of the agency's 35-nation Board of Governors in Vienna, Austria, November 22, 2023.

'No Progress’ Since March As Iran Continues Enrichment - UN Nuclear Chief

Wednesday, 11/22/2023

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog warned of a lack of progress on curtailing Iran's ongoing stockpiling of enriched uranium, claiming "no progress" has been made since March.

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi made the remarks on the opening day of a quarterly meeting of the agency's 35-nation Board of Governors in the Austrian capital Vienna on Wednesday. 

Presenting his latest report on verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015), Grossi said. “You will note that Iran’s stockpiles of uranium enriched up to 5%, enriched up to 20% and enriched up to 60% – high enriched uranium – have all increased since we met in September with the increase of the 60% continuing at the same rate as I reported at the time of the last Board."

The 1696th Board of Governors meeting held at the Agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria, 22 November 2023

He also urged cooperation for implementing commitments made by Iran in another report on the NPT Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran. “I regret that no further progress has been made in implementing the Joint Statement signed in Tehran on 4 March... I am seriously concerned that the implementation of the Joint Statement of 4 March 2023 has come to a standstill. A way forward must include an honest and cooperative implementation of the commitments we agreed.” 

A few days after Iran secured a prisoner swap with the US that included unfreezing of about $6 billion of its oil revenues blocked in South Korea, Tehran withdrew the designation of several inspectors assigned to conduct verification activities in Iran under the Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement. he said the move “contradicts the spirit of cooperation agreed in the Joint Statement of March 2023.”

Grossi said, "It takes a long time to train inspectors of this kind... We will go ahead (with inspections) but this is a very negative development and a serious blow. We hope that this decision will be reversed."

He emphasized the need for Iran to provide technically credible explanations for the presence of uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at Varamin and Turquzabad and to inform the Agency of the current location(s) of the nuclear material and/or of contaminated equipment.

“These outstanding safeguards issues stem from Iran’s obligations under its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and need to be resolved for the Agency to be in a position to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful,” he stated. 

Iran has enough uranium enriched to up to 60% for three atom bombs and is still stonewalling the agency on key issues, IAEA reports showed earlier in the month. Iran's stock of uranium enriched to up to 60% grew by 6.7 kg (14.8 pounds) to 128.3 kg (282.9 pounds) since the last report on September 4, one of the two reports to member states seen by Reuters said. That is more than three times the roughly 42 kg (92.6 pounds) that by the IAEA's definition is theoretically enough, if enriched further, for a nuclear bomb. Weapons-grade is around 90% purity.

Mohsen Naziri Asl, the resident representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the IAEA, at the Board of Governors meeting held at the Agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria, 22 November 2023

Amid simmering tensions in the region -- started by Iran-backed Hamas's bloody invasion of Israel on October 7, Grossi also stressed the need to make the Middle East a nuclear-free zone. “I think there have been repeated calls for all countries in the Middle East – and this includes Israel – to join the NPT and to open all their nuclear facilities to comprehensive safeguards inspections and this is very clear... Every country in the Middle East should be party to the NPT which is the most successful treaty in arms control and non-proliferation in history.”

Grossi underlined “the fact that a nuclear war cannot be won and therefore should never be fought,” falling short of addressing the political aspect of a nuclear weapon as a sword of Damocles hanging over global security

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