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UN watchdog: Iran has quadrupled its stocks of 60%-enriched uranium since May

Iran has dramatically increased its production of highly enriched uranium in recent months, while refusing to resume full cooperation with inspectors, the United Nations nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday.

Tehran has quadrupled its stockpile of 60 percent-enriched uranium since May, in open contravention of the 2015 accord with world powers that was meant to contain its nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported.

The IAEA also told member states in its confidential quarterly report that its verification and monitoring activities have been “seriously undermined” since February by Iran’s refusal to let inspectors access IAEA monitoring equipment.

The agency said that it estimates Iran’s stock of uranium enriched to up to 60% fissile purity at 10 kilograms, an increase of 7.6 kilograms since May.

The country’s stockpile of uranium enriched to up to 20% fissile purity is now estimated at 84.3 kilograms, up from 62.8 kilograms three months earlier.

Iran’s total stock of uranium is estimated at 2441.3 kilograms as of August 30, down from 3241 kilograms on May 22, the agency said.

Tehran is only permitted to stockpile 202.8 kilograms of uranium under the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, which promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear program, and is meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

The Vienna-based agency warned members that its confidence in properly assessing Iran’s activities — what it called the “continuity of knowledge” — was declining over time and that would continue “unless the situation is immediately rectified by Iran”.

The IAEA said that certain monitoring and surveillance equipment cannot be left for more than three months without being serviced.

It was provided with access this month to four surveillance cameras installed at one site, but one of the cameras had been destroyed and a second had been severely damaged, the agency said.

IAEA director-general, Rafael Mariano Grossis, said that he was willing to travel to Iran to meet the recently elected government for talks.

The United States unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018 under then-US president Donald Trump, but Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia have tried to preserve the accord.

Tehran’s strategy of deliberately violating the deal is seen as an attempt to put pressure, particularly on Europe, to provide it with incentives to offset crippling American sanctions re-imposed after the US pullout from the deal.

US President Joe Biden has said that he is open to rejoining the pact. The last round of talks in Vienna ended in June without a clear result.

Israel has repeatedly warned that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly opposed the 2015 deal, which it said would pave the way to an Iranian nuclear arsenal, and publicly urged Biden to reenter the deal.

Meeting with Biden at the White House last month, current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned of the “nightmare” of a radical Islamic regime attaining nuclear weapons, and Biden publicly vowed that the US would “never” allow Iran to attain the bomb.

Israel has “greatly accelerated” preparations for action against Iran’s nuclear program, military chief Aviv Kohavi said in an interview published Monday.

Source: TOI