Posts Tagged ‘centrifuges’

Arab News: Nuclear bomb ‘on Iran’s agenda’

July 19, 2018

Iran has increased its stockpile of uranium and boosted its ability to enrich it to weapons grade, the head of its atomic agency admitted on Wednesday.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the regime had imported 550 tons of uranium before the 2015 agreement to curb its nuclear program. It had acquired about 400 tons more since then, bringing the total to between 900 and 950 tons.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the new factory did not in itself break the terms of the agreement. (Reuters)

Iran has also built a factory that can produce rotors for up to 60 IR-6 centrifuges a day for uranium enrichment, Salehi said.

The announcements came a month after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he had ordered agencies to prepare to increase uranium-enrichment capacity if the nuclear deal falls apart after Washington’s withdrawal.

Under the agreement, which was also signed by Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

The other signatories have been scrambling to save the deal. Iran has said it will wait to see what they can do, but has signaled it is ready to put its enrichment activities back on track.

Image result for Natanz nuclear plant, photos

 

The man who may have started it all: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran from 2005 to 2013

Salehi insisted the new factory did not break the terms of the agreement. “Instead of building this factory in the next seven or eight years, we built it during the negotiations but have not started it,” he said.

Salehi said last month that Iran had begun working on infrastructure for building advanced centrifuges at its Natanz facility.

The announcements suggest that a nuclear bomb is on Iran’s agenda, Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, told Arab News

“Iran’s negotiating strategy here seems to be pegged to pressuring the EU to provide European businesses protection from complying with renewed US sanctions,” he said.

“IR-6 centrifuges are relatively complex and if Tehran moves forward with enhancing their capacity to mass-produce faster advanced centrifuges, they could easily establish a position to breakout quickly toward nuclear weapon production, if the decision is made.

“The capacity to build en masse more advanced centrifuges in the future doesn’t violate the deal itself, but it sends a strong political signal that nuclear weaponization could very well still be on the agenda in Tehran.”

Arab News

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1340936/middle-east

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Iran builds new centrifuge rotor factory: nuclear chief

July 18, 2018

Iran has built a factory that can produce rotors for up to 60 centrifuges a day, the head of its atomic agency said on Wednesday, upping the stakes in a confrontation with Washington over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear work.

Image result for Ali Akbar Salehi, photos

FILE PHOTO: Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi attends the lecture “Iran after the agreement: Hopes & Concerns” in Vienna, Austria, September 28, 2016. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

The announcement came a month after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he had ordered agencies to prepare to increase uranium enrichment capacity if a nuclear deal with world powers falls apart after Washington’s withdrawal from the pact.

Under the terms of the 2015 agreement, which was also signed by Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

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Iran's nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, April, 9, 2007. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

Iran’s nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, April, 9, 2007. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

The other signatories have been scrambling to save the accord, arguing it offers the best way to stop Iran developing a nuclear bomb.

Iran has said it will wait to see what the other powers can do, but has signaled it is ready to get its enrichment activities back on track. It has regularly said its nuclear work is just for electricity generation and other peaceful projects.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the new factory did not in itself break the terms of the agreement.

“Instead of building this factory in the next seven or eight years, we built it during the negotiations but did not start it,” Salehi, said, according to state media.

Image result for Natanz nuclear plant, photos

The man who may have started it all: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran from 2005 to 2013

“Of course, the [Supreme Leader] was completely informed and we gave him the necessary information at the time. And now that he has given the order this factory has started all of its work.”

The factory would have the capacity to build rotors for up to 60 IR-6 centrifuges per day, he added.

Last month, Salehi announced that Iran has begun working on infrastructure for building advanced centrifuges at its Natanz facility.

Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Andrew Heavens

Reuters

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Pompeo to head to North Korea as doubts mount over denuclearization

July 3, 2018

Intelligence reports suggest Pyongyang may be boosting production of fuel for nuclear weapons

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens while appearing at a Senate subcommittee hearing on Wednesday on Capitol Hill in Washington. Pompeo is due to travel to North Korea later this week. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will leave for North Korea on Thursday, seeking agreement on a plan for the country’s denuclearization despite mounting doubts about Pyongyang’s willingness to abandon a weapons program that threatens the United States and its allies.

In announcing Pompeo’s travel plans on Monday, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said the United States was “continuing to make progress” in talks with North Korea. She declined to confirm or deny recent media reports of intelligence assessments saying North Korea has been expanding its weapons capabilities.

The State Department said Pompeo would head from Pyongyang to Tokyo on Saturday, where he would discuss North Korean denuclearization with Japanese and South Korean leaders.

It will be Pompeo’s first visit to North Korea since the June 12 summit in Singapore between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, at which the North Korean leader agreed to “work toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

The joint summit statement, however, gave no details on how or when Pyongyang might give up its weapons.

U.S. officials have since been trying to flesh out details to produce an agreement that might live up to Trump’s enthusiastic portrayal of the outcome.

‘Great momentum’

The U.S. goal remained “the final, fully verified denuclearization of [North Korea], as agreed to by Chairman Kim in Singapore,” a State Department spokesperson said.

A U.S. delegation led by U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim met with North Korean counterparts at Panmunjom on the border between North and South Korea on Sunday to discuss next steps on the implementation of the summit declaration, the State Department said.

“We had good meetings yesterday and … the secretary of state will be there later this week to continue those discussions,” Sanders told a White House briefing.

Sanders endorsed comments made Sunday by White House national security adviser John Bolton, who said he believed the bulk of North Korea’s weapons programs could be dismantled within a year “if they have the strategic decision already made to do that.”

“There is great momentum right now for a positive change and we are moving together for further negotiations,” Sanders said.

However, some experts disputed Bolton’s optimistic time frame for decommissioning North Korea’s weapons, even if North Korea were willing to agree to such moves, amid multiple reports suggesting otherwise.

U.S. intelligence reports

An NBC News report on Friday quoted officials saying U.S. intelligence agencies believe North Korea has increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months and may try to hide these while seeking concessions in talks with the United States.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that U.S. intelligence officials had concluded that North Korea did not intend to fully give up its nuclear arsenal and is considering ways to hide the number of weapons it has.

North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, left, and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands at the conclusion of their meetings at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island in Singapore on June 12. A leaked U.S. intelligence report and an analysis of satellite data suggest the North may be continuing its nuclear and missile activities. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, issued a report on Monday saying recent satellite imagery showed North Korea was completing a major expansion of a key manufacturing plant for solid-fuel missiles.

The images showed North Korea finishing construction on the exterior of the plant around the time Kim was meeting with Trump, the report said.

Last week, 38 North, a North Korea monitoring project affiliated with Washington’s Stimson Center think-tank, said satellite imagery showed the North had been upgrading its Yongbyon nuclear complex.

Seeking a ‘road map’

Bolton refused to comment on intelligence matters but said the United States was going into nuclear negotiations aware of Pyongyang’s failure to live up to its past promises.

Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Centre for a New American Security, said U.S. and South Korea officials had told him Pompeo would be seeking to agree to “a specific denuclearization road map, or at least significant dismantlement steps that could fill in a road map.”

He said that if progress was made, the U.S. was open to expanded future engagement with North Korea, including a possible visit by Kim to the UN General Assembly in New York in September and a second summit with Trump.

North Korea has consistently refused in past rounds of failed negotiations to provide an inventory of its weapons program and U.S. intelligence remains uncertain of how many nuclear warheads North Korea has.

The Defence Intelligence Agency has a high-end estimate of about 50 nuclear warheads. But U.S. intelligence agencies believe Pyongyang is concealing an unknown number, including smaller tactical nuclear weapons, in caves and other underground facilities around the country.

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North Korea satellite images show missile plant construction, analysts say

https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/02/asia/north-korea-factory-intl/index.html

Pompeo to head to North Korea as doubts mount

July 3, 2018

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will leave for North Korea on Thursday seeking agreement on a plan for the country’s denuclearization, despite mounting doubts about Pyongyang’s willingness to abandon a weapons program that threatens the United States and its allies.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, people sitting and suit
KCNA | Reuters
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in this May 9, 2018 photo released on May 10, 2018 by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang.

In announcing Pompeo’s travel plans on Monday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the United States was “continuing to make progress” in talks with North Korea. She declined to confirm or deny recent media reports of intelligence assessments saying North Korea has been expanding its weapons capabilities.

The State Department said Pompeo would head on Saturday from Pyongyang to Tokyo, where he would discuss North Korean denuclearization with Japanese and South Korean leaders.

It will be Pompeo’s first visit to North Korea since the June 12 summit in Singapore between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, at which the North Korean leader agreed to “work toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

The joint summit statement, however, gave no details on how or when Pyongyang might give up its weapons. U.S. officials have since been trying to flesh out details to produce an agreement that might live up to Trump’s enthusiastic portrayal of the outcome.

The U.S. goal remained “the final, fully-verified denuclearization of (North Korea), as agreed to by Chairman Kim in Singapore,” a State Department spokeswoman said.

A U.S. delegation led by U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim met with North Korean counterparts at Panmunjom on the border between North and South Korea on Sunday to discuss next steps on the implementation of the summit declaration, the State Department said.

“We had good meetings yesterday and … the secretary of state will be there later this week to continue those discussions,” Sanders told a White House briefing.

Sanders endorsed comments made on Sunday by White House national security adviser John Bolton, who said he believed the bulk of North Korea’s weapons programs could be dismantled within a year “if they have the strategic decision already made to do that.”

“There is great momentum right now for a positive change and we are moving together for further negotiations,” Sanders said.

However, some experts disputed Bolton’s optimistic time frame for decommissioning North Korea’s weapons, even if North Korea were willing to agree to such moves, amid multiple reports suggesting otherwise.

INTELLIGENCE REPORTS

An NBC News report on Friday quoted U.S. officials saying U.S. intelligence agencies believe North Korea has increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months and may try to hide these while seeking concessions in talks with the United States.

The Washington Post reported on Saturday that U.S. intelligence officials had concluded that North Korea did not intend to fully give up its nuclear arsenal and is considering ways to hide the number of weapons it has.

Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, issued a report on Monday saying recent satellite imagery showed North Korea was completing a major expansion of a key manufacturing plant for solid-fuel missiles.

The images showed North Korea finishing construction on the exterior of the plant around the time Kim was meeting with Trump, the report said.

Last week, 38 North, a North Korea monitoring project affiliated with Washington’s Stimson Center think tank, said satellite imagery showed the North had been upgrading its Yongbyon nuclear complex.

Bolton also refused to comment on intelligence matters, but said the United States was going into nuclear negotiations aware of Pyongyang’s failure to live up to its past promises.

Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, said U.S. and South Korea officials had told him Pompeo would be seeking to agree to “a specific denuclearization road map, or at least significant dismantlement steps that could fill in a roadmap.”

He said that if progress was made, the U.S. was open to expanded future engagement with North Korea, including a possible visit by Kim to the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September and a second summit with Trump.

North Korea has consistently refused in past rounds of failed negotiations to provide an inventory of its weapons program, and U.S. intelligence remains uncertain of how many nuclear warheads North Korea has.

The Defense Intelligence Agency has a high end estimate of about 50 nuclear warheads. But U.S. intelligence agencies believe Pyongyang is concealing an unknown number, including smaller tactical nuclear weapons, in caves and other underground facilities around the country.

US intel agency believes Kim won’t fully denuclearize

July 3, 2018

The Defense Intelligence Agency believes that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has no intention of engaging in a full denuclearization program, at least for now, according to an administration official familiar with the agency’s finding.

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A second official tells CNN the Trump administration plans to present the North Koreans with a detailed list of tasks they must undertake to begin a denuclearization process.
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The analysis is currently being circulated among other US intelligence agencies to see if they concur, the first official said. While the official would not detail the precise intelligence that has led to this conclusion, the agency utilizes satellite imagery, electronic intercepts and human intelligence gained from operatives.
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CNN
By Barbara Starr and Zachary Cohen, CNN

Updated 6:25 PM ET, Mon July 2, 2018

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Image result for news for north korea, satellite photos
A North Korean missile production facility in the city of Hamhung is seen from a satellite image taken on June 29. (Planet Labs Inc./Reuters)

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A third official told CNN that the agency believes Kim may publicly agree to denuclearization to some extent, but that he will in reality hide weapons and infrastructure from the US.
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A photograph released by North Korean state media last year showing Kim inspecting an artist's rendition of the purported facility.

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The current view on Kim directly addresses his intentions rather than the overall capabilities of his weapons programs. If other elements of the US intelligence community agree with the Defense Intelligence Agency’s analysis, it could then become a so-called “finished intelligence product,” or report that would be briefed to the highest levels of the administration. It’s not known how much of the DIA finding the White House may be aware of.
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will return to North Korea on July 5 to meet with Kim and his team, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at Monday’s press briefing.
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A foreign intelligence source told CNN that the intelligence community’s analytic judgment has stayed the same for years, which is that they are skeptical of Kim’s willingness to denuclearize.
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This source said that they are unaware of any new projects the North Koreans may be working on, but reiterated that “they have given nothing up.”
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Former UN weapons inspector David Albright told CNN on Monday that his firm has new information about a secret North Korean facility producing highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium. The information, Albright says, comes from Western intelligence sources.
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“At Kangsong they’re using gas centrifuges,” Albright told CNN’s Brian Todd. Pointing to a photo, Albright identified the rotor assembly. “They’re producing weapons-grade uranium for nuclear weapons,” Albright said. “And the site may have up to 6,000 or more of these centrifuges.”
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The Pentagon declined to address intelligence reports on North Korea’s nuclear capability when asked on Monday, saying only that the US military remains postured to “deal with any and all threats on the peninsula” with the goal of allowing “diplomats the space and the time to hopefully make progress coming out of the summit.”
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Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning also said that Trump’s decision to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea “will not impact the capabilities and readiness of our combined forces on the peninsula in order to deal with North Korea.”
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The Defense Department has long been skeptical of North Korea moving quickly to denuclearize. Recent commercial satellite imagery has shown some continuing activity at various nuclear fuel and missile sites.
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The Washington Post earlier reported on US intelligence officials’ doubt that North Korea intends to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile.
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Kim “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” in a signed agreement after his Singapore summit with President Donald Trump. In the statement, Kim also said that his country would commit “to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
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But Trump has repeatedly mischaracterized the nature of his deal with Kim, insisting last month that the North Korean dictator had agreed to begin “total denuclearization” right away.
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While Kim has consistently said he’s willing to denuclearize, long-time North Korea watchers worry that Pyongyang and Washington have very different definitions of the term denuclearization.
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“Kim has never offered to disarm. Not once,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director for the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. “He’s arming, not disarming.”
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White House national security adviser John Bolton would not comment on the Washington Post report Sunday, but did say on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal could be dismantled in a year if Pyongyang cooperates, adding that the program would require “full disclosure of all (of North Korea’s) chemical and biological, nuclear programs, ballistic missile sites.”
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“We have developed a program. I am sure that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be discussing this with the North Koreans in the near future about really how to dismantle all of their (weapons of mass destruction])and ballistic missile programs in a year,” Bolton said. “If they have the strategic decision already made to do that and they are cooperative, we can move very quickly. And it is to North Korea’s advantage to dismantle very quickly. Then the elimination of sanctions, aid by South Korea and Japan and others can all begin to flower.”
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Bolton disclosed that the plan has not been put into action yet.
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“It has not. Physically, we would be able to dismantle the overwhelming bulk of their programs within a year,” Bolton said.
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
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Pompeo told CNN last week he would not put a timeline on negotiations with North Korea, but said the Trump administration will regularly assess the regime’s seriousness about abandoning its nuclear program as the US moves toward normalizing relations with Pyongyang.
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He also played it coy when asked by lawmakers last week about specific conditions the administration has set for North Korea to achieve denuclearization and secure economic concessions.
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“I’m not prepared to talk about the details of the discussions that are taking place,” he said, “I think it would be inappropriate and, frankly, counterproductive to achieving the end state that we’re hoping to achieve.”
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A team of US officials led by envoy Sung Kim met with North Korean officials Sunday at Panmunjom, the border village between North and South Korea in the demilitarized zone, in the first face-to-face conversations between the two countries since the summit last month according senior State Department officials.
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The foreign intelligence source who spoke to CNN said it would be worrisome if the administration does not have a timeline by September.
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Bolton also said Sunday on CBS that during the US-North Korea summit in Singapore, Kim was “very emphatic several times” about turning over the arsenal, which was a change from previous regimes.
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“Now, we’ll let their actions speak for themselves,” Bolton added.
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“There’s nobody involved in this discussion with North Korea in the administration who is overburdened by naïveté. We’ve seen how the North Koreans have behaved before,” Bolton said.
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“The President’s been very clear,” Bolton said. “He is not going to make mistakes of prior administrations. We are going to pursue this, and we will see what happens.”
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However, one former member of the US National Security Council told CNN that the leak of this intelligence assessment could indicate there is internal frustration over the administration’s apparent trust in Kim’s sincerity moving forward.
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US President Donald Trump (R) and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un shake hands following a signing ceremony during their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB)
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“The (intelligence community) doesn’t assess that Kim Jong Un is acting in good faith … they’re probably fed up with the fact that (Trump) and Pompeo keep publicly touting their trust in one of the most definitively untrustworthy regimes the US has ever negotiated with,” the source said.
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But the decision to leak this information also has a risk factor, according to the same source, who said the information could diminish the likelihood Kim will cooperate “if he thinks that, no matter what he does, the US has already prejudged him to be untrustworthy.”

https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/02/politics/north-korea-denuclearization/index.html

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North Korea satellite images show missile plant construction, analysts say

https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/02/asia/north-korea-factory-intl/index.html

Iran won’t cooperate fully with nuke inspectors until deal impasse resolved

June 7, 2018

Islamic Republic’s envoy to UN warns European powers it has a ‘few weeks’ to bolster nuclear accord

Times of Israel
June 7, 2018

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Iran's nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, April, 9, 2007. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

Iran’s nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, April, 9, 2007. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

Iran on Wednesday upped the ante in its standoff with the United States and European powers over the 2015 nuclear deal from which the Trump administration withdrew last month, with its United Nations envoy warning it would not cooperate fully with nuclear inspectors until the future of the deal was resolved.

Reza Najafi also gave the European parties to the nuclear deal several weeks to salvage the accord.

“A few weeks means a few weeks, not a few months,” said Najafi, the Reuters news agency reported.

The Iranian envoy signaled that international inspectors from the IAEA would not receive expanded access to its facilities while the deal remained precarious, adding “no one should expect Iran to go to implement more voluntary measures.”

“But I should emphasize that it does not mean that right now Iran will restart any activities contrary to the (deal),” Najafi added. “These are only preparatory works.”

On Tuesday, Iran informed the UN nuclear watchdog that it would increase its nuclear enrichment capacity, yet stay within the provisions of the accord.

And on Wednesday, Iran’s nuclear chief inaugurated the Islamic Republic’s new nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz, which is geared toward producing centrifuges that will operate within the limits of the nuclear deal.

The EU, which is working to save the 2015 agreement, warned Tuesday that the Iranian announcement would not help build confidence in the Iranian program, but said it did not constitute a breach of the deal.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian leaves the Elysee presidential palace in Paris after a weekly cabinet meeting, on May 30, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / Ludovic MARIN)

Last month, the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement that Iran signed with the US, China, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany, saying it would reimpose sanctions on foreign companies working in the Islamic Republic by November.

The EU is trying to come up with ways to persuade Iran to stick with the deal by protecting the economic benefits it gained when tough sanctions were lifted in return for it halting the weapons-capable aspects of its nuclear program.

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Iran completing advanced centrifuges for uranium enrichment by July

June 7, 2018

A facility in Iran’s Natanz nuclear plant to build advanced centrifuges will be completed in a month, Iran’s nuclear chief said on Wednesday, as Tehran prepares to increase its uranium- enrichment capacity if the nuclear deal collapses after U.S. exit.

“After the supreme leader’s order we prepared this center within 48 hours. We hope the facility to be completed in a month,” Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said on Wednesday on state television.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday he had ordered preparations to increase uranium enrichment capacity if the nuclear agreement with world powers collapsed.

Image result for Natanz nuclear plant, photos

The man who may have started it all: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran from 2005 to 2013

The landmark agreement, which lifted crippling economic sanctions in exchange for Tehran limiting its uranium enrichment program, has been facing its greatest diplomatic challenges in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull America out of it.

European nations and others involved in the accord are now trying to salvage it, and many companies that rushed to make billion-dollar deals with Iran now are backing out for fear of being targeted by U.S. sanctions.

Natanz, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of the capital, Tehran, includes underground facilities protected by some 7.6 meters (25 feet) of concrete, which offer protection from airstrikes.

Salehi’s choice of Natanz to offer his speech came as no surprise.

The facility long has been a point of contention between Iran and the West since its public disclosure by an Iranian exile group in 2002. While Tehran long has maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, Western nations have feared Natanz represented a means for Iran to enrich enough uranium to produce atomic weapons.

The Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation, caused thousands of centrifuges at Natanz to spin themselves to destruction at the height of the West’s fears over Iran’s program.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran agreed to store its excess centrifuges at Natanz under constant surveillance by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran can use 5,060 older-model centrifuges at Natanz, but only to enrich uranium up to 3.67 percent. Natanz was designed to have as many as 50,000 centrifuges operating there.

In Wednesday’s interview, Salehi said mass-production for new-generation centrifuges will take years to be fully operational. “Every new generation of centrifuges needs eight to 10 years for testing,” he said.

That low-level enrichment means the uranium can be used to fuel a civilian reactor but is far below the 90 percent needed to produce a weapon. Iran also can possess no more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of that uranium. That’s compared to the 100,000 kilograms (220,460 pounds) of higher-enriched uranium it once had.

Iran also this week told the IAEA it had a “tentative schedule to start production of UF6,” or uranium hexafluoride. Uranium hexafluoride gas is spun by centrifuges to make enriched uranium that can be used in nuclear weapons and atomic reactor fuel. That work is also restrained under the nuclear deal.

Earlier Wednesday, Iranian ambassador to the IAEA Reza Najafi told journalists in Vienna that Iran had given European nations “a few weeks” to come up with ways to protect the deal from America’s pullout.

“These are the preparatory works for a possible scenario if in an unfortunate situation the (nuclear deal) fails then Iran can restart its activities without any limits,” Najafi said.

“What I can say is right now, the negotiations at the expert level are continuing and we hope that it could reach some conclusion,” he added. “Until then, we continue to exercise the most restraint but it is not (an) endless process.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned Iran against restarting higher enrichment of uranium.

“It is always dangerous to flirt with the red lines,” he said.

https://www.dailysabah.com/mideast/2018/06/06/irans-advanced-centrifuges-to-be-completed-in-a-month-state-tv-says

Trump’s Iran Threat May Wreck Talks With North Korea

April 2, 2018

Editorial
The New York Times

April 1, 2018

President Trump, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on a TV at the railway station in Seoul, South Korea.CreditAhn Young-Joon/Associated Press

As he prepares for possible talks with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un about controlling the North’s nuclear weapons program, President Trump is facing his most complicated national security challenge so far. He has made the task far harder by threatening to blow up the only other recent deal to control a nuclear program, with Iran.

After decades of effort, Iran was close to producing enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb when it reached the deal with the major powers in 2015.

Iran gave away about 97 percent of its low-enriched uranium, destroyed 13,000 of its 19,000 centrifuges and pledged to incapacitate a heavy-water facility intended to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

If Iran tries to cheat, the most rigorous technological verification system in the world can detect the violations and alert the world in time to intervene. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors the agreement, has repeatedly found Iran in compliance; scores of experts, including American diplomats and military officers, have affirmed the deal’s efficacy. Israel’s army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, told Haaretz on Friday that the deal has delayed the “Iranian nuclear vision by 10 to 15 years.”

Although Iran never had a nuclear weapon, the agreement required months of talks and two years of technical and political negotiations. Now consider North Korea, with 20 to 60 nuclear weapons, and facilities for producing plutonium and enriching uranium, many of which are hidden.

Mr. Trump has insisted on the North’s complete and verifiable denuclearization. And, by all indications, he wants it done immediately. Yet by threatening to abrogate the Iran deal and reimpose sanctions Mr. Trump has added to the challenge of making that happen.

He has claimed, without a shred of evidence, that Iran is out of compliance, and has complained that Iran is still building ballistic missiles, arming Hezbollah and supporting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. None of these concerns were supposed to be prevented by the deal.

He has demanded that Britain, France and Germany fix what he calls “flaws” in the pact by May 12, presumably so he will have someone else to blame when it falls apart.

The president, and his new hard-line team of national security advisers, may think that walking away from the Iran deal will persuade Mr. Kim of his toughness and his determination to secure terms that go far beyond those reached with Iran. More likely, Mr. Kim will see it as proof that the United States cannot be trusted to stick to its commitments and will be reluctant to reach any agreement.

Persuading a country to give up weapons is never easy. The North Koreans have said they need nuclear weapons to deter American aggression. And Mr. Kim has set the pace for most of the recent diplomacy — including his surprise invitation to Mr. Trump and his visit with President Xi Jinping in China. That said, he reportedly told China and South Korea he will discuss “denuclearization” with the Americans.

Denuclearization has had some successes. After Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus inherited thousands of nuclear weapons when the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States persuaded them to transfer the devices to Russia. South Africa had about a half-dozen warheads but gave them up after the end of apartheid. Libya shed its rudimentary nuclear program under pressure from Britain and the United States after the Iraq war.

And in 1994, most likely before North Korea had any nuclear weapons, a limited agreement with the United States froze the North’s plutonium program for about eight years until it fell apart under President George W. Bush.

A serious negotiation with North Korea would include Mr. Trump pressing Mr. Kim to freeze nuclear and missile testing, halt the production of nuclear weapons fuel and the deployment of nuclear weapons and put an Iran-like verification system in place. But why would Mr. Kim agree to any of that if the Americans walk away from the Iran deal? Why would Mr. Kim, or any future adversary for that matter, assume Mr. Trump is negotiating in good faith?

The Iran deal has achieved what it was intended to do — limit Iran’s nuclear program. There is still hope that something similar can be achieved in North Korea. Indeed, Mr. Trump could contribute in an unprecedented way to international peace and security by engaging with Mr. Kim. That possibility will be squandered, though, if the American president escalates a manufactured nuclear crisis with Iran at the very time he is trying to defuse one with North Korea.

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A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: Trump’s Iran Threat Imperils Korea Talks.

Iran’s foreign minister Zarif boasts about Tehran’s plans to expand its uranium enrichment program as a “matter of pride”

July 19, 2016

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U.S Secretary of State John Kerry with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s foreign minister is extolling the country’s ability to bring its nuclear program back on track as limits on the 15-year accord ease in the coming years.

Mohammad Javad Zarif says a document, submitted by Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency and outlining plans to expand Iran’s uranium enrichment program, is a “matter of pride.”

He says it was created by Iran’s “negotiators and experts.”

Zarif’s remarks, carried by the semi-official Fars news agency on Tuesday, followed revelations the day before of the confidential document — an add-on agreement to the nuclear deal with world powers — that Iran gave the IAEA.

The document, obtained by The Associated Press in Vienna, outlines Tehran’s plans to expand its uranium enrichment program after the first 10 years of the nuclear deal.

Related:

 

(R L) Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani attend Supreme Leader’s meeting with authorities of the country and ambassadors of Islamic countries, in Tehran, Iran July 6, 2016. Reuters photo

Iran Can Build Nuclear Weapons Earlier Than Experts Thought — Iran Nuclear Deal: “The Devil Is In The Details”

July 18, 2016

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iran missile

By George Jahn
The Associated Press

VIENNA (AP) — Key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program imposed under an internationally negotiated deal will start to ease years before the 15-year accord expires, advancing Tehran’s ability to build a bomb even before the end the pact, according to a document obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

The document is the only text linked to last year’s deal between Iran and six foreign powers that hasn’t been made public, although U.S. officials say members of Congress have been able to see it. It was given to the AP by a diplomat whose work has focused on Iran’s nuclear program for more than a decade, and its authenticity was confirmed by another diplomat who possesses the same document.

U.S Secretary of State John Kerry with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

The diplomat who shared the document with the AP described it as an add-on agreement to the nuclear deal. But while formally separate from that accord, he said that it was in effect an integral part of the deal and had been approved by the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, the six powers that negotiated the deal with Tehran.

Details published earlier outline most restraints on Iran’s nuclear program meant to reduce the threat that Tehran will turn nuclear activities it says are peaceful to making weapons.

But while some of the constraints extend for 15 years, documents in the public domain are short on details of what happens with Iran’s most proliferation-prone nuclear activity – its uranium enrichment – beyond the first 10 years of the agreement.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was Iran’s President from 2005 to 2013. Under his direction, Iran started its quest to obtain nuclear warheads and land range ballistic missiles.

The document obtained by the AP fills in the gap. It says that as of January 2027 – 11 years after the deal was implemented – Iran can start replacing its mainstay centrifuges with thousands of advanced machines.

Centrifuges churn out uranium to levels that can range from use as reactor fuel and for medical and research purposes to much higher levels for the core of a nuclear warhead. From year 11 to 13, says the document, Iran can install centrifuges up to five times as efficient as the 5,060 machines it is now restricted to using.

Those new models will number less than those being used now, ranging between 2,500 and 3,500, depending on their efficiency, according to the document. But because they are more effective, they will allow Iran to enrich at more than twice the rate it is doing now.

The U.S. says the Iran nuclear agreement is tailored to ensure that Iran would need at least 12 months to “break out” and make enough weapons grade uranium for at least one weapon.

But based on a comparison of outputs between the old and newer machines, if the enrichment rate doubles, that breakout time would be reduced to six months, or even less if the efficiency is more than double, a possibility the document allows for.

The document also allows Iran to greatly expand its work with centrifuges that are even more advanced, including large-scale testing in preparation for the deal’s expiry 15 years after its implementation on Jan. 18.

A senior U.S. official noted, however, that the limit on the amount of enriched uranium Iran will be allowed to store will remain at 300 kilograms (660 pounds) for the full 15 years, significantly below the amount needed for a bomb. As well, it will remain restricted to a level used for reactor fuel that is well below weapons grade. Like the diplomats, the official demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing the document.

“We have ensured that Iran’s breakout time comes down gradually after year 10 in large part because of restrictions on its uranium stockpile until year 15,” the official said. “As for breakout times after the initial 10 years of the deal, the breakout time does not go off a cliff nor do we believe that it would be immediately cut in half, to six months.”

Iran’s Ghadr-110 Missile

The official said the document wasn’t made public because it was part of Iran’s long-term enrichment plan submitted to the IAEA. Such submissions are confidential, but the text was “closely reviewed” by Washington and the other five powers that negotiated the nuclear deal, said the official.

Still the easing of restrictions on the number and kind of centrifuges means that once the deal expires, Tehran will be positioned to quickly make enough highly enriched uranium to bring up its stockpile to a level that would allow it to make a bomb in half a year, should it choose to do so.

The document doesn’t say what happens with enrichment past year 13. That indicates a possible end to all restrictions on the number and kind of centrifuges even while constraints on other, less-proliferation prone nuclear activities remain until year 15.

Iran insists it is not interested in nuclear weapons, and the pact is being closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA says Tehran has essentially kept to its commitments since the agreement was implemented, a little more than six months after Iran and the six powers finalized it on July 14, 2015.

Marking the agreement’s anniversary Thursday, President Barack Obama said it has succeeded in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, “avoiding further conflict and making us safer.” But opposition from U.S. Republicans could increase with the revelation that Iran’s potential breakout time would be more than halved over the last few years of the pact.

Also opposed is Israel, which in the past has threatened to strike Iran if it deems that Tehran is close to making a nuclear weapon. Alluding to that possibility, David Albright, whose Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security is a U.S. government go-to resource on Iran’s nuclear program, said the plan outlined in the document “will create a great deal of instability and possibly even lead to war, if regional tensions have not subsided.”

The deal provides Iran with sanctions relief in exchange for its nuclear constraints. But before going into recess, U.S. Congress last week approved a bill to impose new sanctions for Tehran’s continuing development and testing of ballistic missiles, a program the White House says is meant to carry atomic warheads even if it is not part of the nuclear agreement.

It also approved a measure that calls for prohibiting the Obama administration from buying more of Iran’s heavy water, a key component in certain nuclear reactors.

The White House has said removing the country’s surplus heavy water denies Tehran access to a material that may be stored for potential nuclear weapons production. But critics note that the purchase was made only after Iran exceeded heavy water limits proscribed by the nuclear deal and assert it rewarded Tehran for violating the agreement.

Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed from Washington.

Related:

 

(R L) Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani attend Supreme Leader’s meeting with authorities of the country and ambassadors of Islamic countries, in Tehran, Iran July 6, 2016. Reuters photo