Iran’s deputy foreign minister said Sunday that an emergency meeting in Vienna between Tehran and its partners in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal had yielded positive developments but not “resolved everything.”
“The atmosphere was constructive, and the discussions were good,” Abbas Araghchi told reporters.
Araghchi said he and his partners from Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union remain determined to save the deal.
The fate of the agreement remains uncertain after the Trump administration pulled out of the deal last year and reimposed sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to scale back its commitments under the pact.
In early July, Iran said it had breached a stockpile limit for low-enriched uranium allowed under the deal and was enriching uranium at a higher level than permitted. Tehran has said it will continue to reduce its obligations under the pact if the remaining parties to the deal do not help alleviate Iran’s economic isolation.
Earlier Sunday, the head of Iran’s nuclear agency was reported to have told lawmakers that Iran has enriched 24 metric tons of uranium since the 2015 nuclear deal was reached.
The remarks by Ali Akbar Salehi of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization were reported widely by state-run and semiofficial media, which cited conservative lawmakers present at the closed-door meeting.
The claim, if confirmed, would suggest that Iran has produced far more enriched uranium than was previously known, exceeding the deal’s limit many times over.
However, some experts expressed skepticism and suggested Salehi may have been talking about enriched uranium that was produced but subsequently diluted or “downblended” – a process that could be used to keep machines running while still ultimately yielding relatively low enriched uranium.
Salehi also said that Iran was moving to restart activity at the heavy-water nuclear reactor at its Arak facility, according to the accounts.
Iran’s uranium enrichment capabilities and its heavy-water nuclear reactor were placed under restrictions by the 2015 deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), for fear that they could be used by Iran to pursue a nuclear weapons program.
Uranium must be enriched to high levels for use in nuclear weapons. The JCPOA placed a limit on the amount of enriched uranium Iran could possess and the level to which enriched uranium could be produced.
The claim that Iran’s enriched-uranium stockpile had exceeded the 300-kilogram limit was subsequently confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency. But in Iranian media on Sunday, Salehi was reported to have said that it went further than this.
“After the JCPOA, Iran enriched 24 tons of uranium, not 300 kilograms,” Gholamali Jafarzadeh, a member of the Iranian parliament, quoted Salehi as saying, according to Mehr News.
Twenty-four metric tons is 24,000 kilograms.
The IAEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Experts had deemed Arak’s heavy-water reactor a risk for proliferation as it could allow Iran to produce weapons-grade plutonium. The nuclear deal required Iran to pour concrete into the pipes of the reactor’s calandria, or core, as part of a redesign.
Salehi had said last week that the redesign of the heavy-water reactor, which was being done in partnership with China and Britain, was making progress. Britain replaced the United States in the project after the Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear deal.
In his meeting with lawmakers on Sunday, Salehi was reported to have said that the developments were not indicative of an intent to produce nuclear weapons.
“We do not intend to produce nuclear weapons because of religious reasons,” lawmaker Mehrdad Lahouti quoted Salehi as saying, according to the Iranian Students News Agency.
Though they are working together on the heavy-water reactor, relations between Iran and Britain have been tense in recent weeks, after British marines helped seize an Iranian-flagged tanker near Gibraltar and Iran seized a British-flagged tanker that was passing the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Adam Taylor