IAEA detects "uranium particles" at undeclared site

The report of the International Atomic Energy Agency also confirms that Iran has intensified its uranium enrichment, exceeding the stocks authorized by the 2015 agreement.

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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has detected "Natural uranium particles" in a place that had not been declared, according to a report consulted by Agence France-Presse (AFP) Monday, November 11 in Vienna. The IAEA does not name this site. Diplomatic sources told AFP earlier that the nuclear gendarme had asked Iran questions about a location previously reported by Israel as possibly hosting suspected nuclear activities. A source also revealed that the IAEA had sampled this site in Turquzabad district, Tehran, in the spring.

According to a diplomat working in the Austrian capital, the pace of uranium production in Iran has increased significantly to more than 100 kg per month. It could still accelerate in the months to come.

The report also confirms that Iran has intensified its uranium enrichment, with the low-enriched uranium stock now reaching the equivalent of 551 kg. The agreement reached in 2015 between Iran, the United States, China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and Germany allows only a stock limited to 300 kg.

Read the analysis: In the nuclear, Iran's strategy aims to isolate the Americans while avoiding the irreparable

Step disengagement

Since May, Tehran has gradually withdrawn from this agreement signed in Vienna with the Europeans, the United States, Russia and China, which allows the most intensive inspections ever given to the IAEA.

US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled his country out of the deal in May 2018, re-imposing sanctions on the Iranian economy that plunged it into a deep recession.

By gradually reducing its commitments, Tehran hopes to put pressure on other States Parties to help it bypass these sanctions.

Read also Iranian nuclear: Uranium enrichment resumed in Fordo's underground plant

Meeting on Monday in Paris, the French, German and British Foreign Ministers and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini said "Extremely concerned" by this situation. In a joint statement, they "Urge Iran to reconsider all the contrary measures" to the treaty.

According to IAEA inspectors, the Islamic Republic is enriching uranium in its underground facilities in Fordo, a further violation of its commitments.

"Significant worsening"

It was Iranian President Hassan Rohani who announced last week the resumption of enrichment at Fordo. This is the fourth phase of the Iranian commitment reduction plan put in place in May in response to US sanctions.

These activities at Fordo have "Potentially serious consequences for proliferation", said the European ministers, for whom "It is now essential that Iran respect its commitments and work with all participants in JCPoA (the nuclear deal), to allow a de-escalation of tensions" in the Middle-East. "We want to preserve it (the agreement), but Iran will have to return to its obligations and respect them, otherwise we reserve the right to use all the mechanisms included in the agreement", had already warned the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas earlier in the day in Brussels.

The text includes a lengthy device to implement but may lead to a vote in the UN Security Council ending sanctions relief for Iran.

Westerners are worried about the decline in Breakout timethat is, how long it would take Iran to produce a nuclear bomb if it decided. The agreement ensures that this period is extended to one year, the time considered necessary by Westerners to prepare a possible bombing campaign.

But given the recent Iranian nuclear activities, "We have entered a phase of significant aggravation", is alarmed a European source. "We see that the window of opportunity for de-escalation is shrinking very seriously", in a very tense situation between the United States and Iran.


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