Centrifuge rotor plant ups N-stakes – Trump said to have sought Rouhani talks
TEHRAN, July 18, (Agencies): 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. 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 programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
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 signalled 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.
A spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the organization is aware of the announcement but has “no comment.” “Instead of building this factory in the next seven or eight years, we built it during the negotiations but have not started it,” Salehi, said, according to state media. “Of course, the 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 its work.” The factory would have the capacity to build rotors for up to 60 IR-6 centrifuges per day, he added.
Separately, Salehi said that Iran now had a stockpile of up to 950 tons of uranium. He said Iran had imported 550 tons of uranium before the nuclear agreement and had acquired approximately another 400 tons after the agreement was finalized, bringing the total stockpile to between 900 and 950 tons. Salehi did not specify where the additional 400 tons of uranium had come from.
Last month, Salehi announced that Iran has begun working on infrastructure for building advanced centrifuges at its Natanz facility. The chief of Iran’s nuclear agency says the country’s effort to acquire uranium has resulted in a stockpile of as much as 950 tons. Salehi tells state TV on Wednesday that Iran has imported some 400 tons of the stuff since the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Western powers, bringing its stockpile to between 900 and 950 tons — up from 500 tons.
Salehi says that’s enough for Iran to run its longtime goal of 190,000 centrifuge machines for enriching uranium in the future. The nuclear accord limits Iran’s uranium enrichment to 3.67 percent, enough to use in a nuclear power plant but far lower than the 90 percent needed for an atomic weapon. However, since the US pulled out of the deal in May, Iran has vowed to boost enrichment capacity to put pressure on the remaining signatories to live up to the agreement.
Meanwhile, the chief of staff to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that his US counterpart Donald Trump asked for a meeting eight times during the UN General Assembly last year. “During Rouhani’s last visit to New York for the UN General Assembly session, Trump asked the Iranian delegation eight times to have a meeting with the president,” Mahmoud Vaezi told reporters on Wednesday, according to the conservative Mehr news agency.
He said the Iranian team had not responded to the requests, which came just after Trump announced he would no longer certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal — setting the scene for his eventual withdrawal from the pact in May. “We have a transparent policy and clear position with regard to our relations with the US … that (we) will not yield to pressure,” Vaezi said. Tehran said back in October that Trump had requested a sit-down with his Iranian counterpart during the UN meeting, but the claim of numerous requests had not previously been made.
Trump has said he is open to talks on a new deal with Iran that goes beyond its nuclear programme to include its regional behaviour and missile defences. Iran has said there is no chance of a renegotiation and is working with European and Asian partners to find ways around US nuclear-related sanctions that will be reimposed in the coming months as part of Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 agreement. A Trump-Rouhani meeting would have been the first between the presidents of the two countries since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. In other news, the European Investment Bank’s global operations would be put at risk if it were to invest in Iran, its president said on Wednesday, casting doubt on the EU’s ability to deliver on its pledge to save a nuclear deal with Tehran that Washington has abandoned.