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Tuesday , November 19 2019

Iran to restart Arak heavy N-reactor

Oman not mediating in escalating regional tensions

GENEVA, July 28, (Agencies): The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, told lawmakers on Sunday that Iran will restart activities at the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor, the ISNA news agency reported. ISNA cited a member of parliament who attended the meeting.

Heavy water can be employed in reactors to produce plutonium, a fuel used in nuclear warheads. Iran stopped complying in May with some commitments in the 2015 nuclear deal that was agreed with global powers, after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and re-introduced sanctions on Tehran.

The remaining signatories have tried to hold the nuclear deal together, an increasingly difficult task as tensions between Washington and Tehran have soared in recent weeks. An emergency meeting with parties to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal was constructive but there are unresolved issues and Tehran will continue to reduce its nuclear commitments if Europeans fail to salvage the pact, Iranian official Abbas Araqchi said on Sunday. “The atmosphere was constructive. Discussions were good. I cannot say that we resolved everything, I can say there are lots of commitments,” Araqchi, the senior Iranian nuclear negotiator, told reporters after the meeting in Vienna. Parties to the agreement – Britain, Germany and France plus Russia and China – met Iranian officials for talks called in response to an escalation in tensions between Iran and the West that included confrontations at sea and Tehran’s breaches of the nuclear accord. “As we have said, we will continue to reduce our commitments to the deal until Europeans secure Iran’s interests under the deal,” Araqchi said.

he parties have been trying to salvage the pact since the United States withdrew from it in May 2018 and reimposed and toughened sanctions on Iran, crippling an already weak economy. The Europeans say further breaches of the agreement by Iran would escalate confrontation at a time when Tehran and Washington are at risk of a miscalculation that could lead to war. However, their efforts to protect trade with Iran against the US sanctions have yielded nothing concrete so far.

Earlier this month, Tehran followed through on its threat to increase its nuclear activities in breach of the agreement. Iran has said it will withdrew from the pact unless the Europeans find ways to shield its economy from the US sanctions. “All our steps taken so far are reversible if other parties to the deal fulfil their commitments,” an Iranian diplomat told Reuters ahead of the meeting. In response to the sanctions, Iran said in May it would decrease its commitments under the nuclear pact.

Under the deal, most international sanctions against Tehran were lifted in 2016, in exchange for limitations on its nuclear work. So far, Iran has breached the limit of its enriched uranium stockpile as well as enriching uranium beyond a 3.67 percent purity limit set by its deal with major powers, defying a warning by Europeans to stick to the deal despite US sanctions. The UN nuclear watchdog, policing the deal, has confirmed the measures announced by Tehran. Fu Cong, director general of the Department of Arms Control of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, who led the Chinese delegation, said: “All sides have expressed their commitment to safeguard the JCPOA (nuclear deal) and to continue to implement the JCPOA in a balanced manner. “All sides have expressed their strong opposition against the US unilateral imposition of sanctions.”

The meeting came after Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards seized a British- flagged oil tanker on July 19, two weeks after British forces captured an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar which it said was violating sanctions on Syria. Oman is not undertaking any mediation efforts around rising tensions in the Gulf region but is in contact with “all parties” in order to maintain stability in the Strait of Hormuz, Oman’s minister in charge of foreign affairs said on Sunday.

“We are not mediating, but what we are more concerned with, in this case, is securing the stability of navigation in the Hormuz Straight, so we are in contact with all parties,” Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah told Omani state TV after meeting Iranian officials in Tehran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday he hoped British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “familiarity” with the Islamic Republic will help improve relations between Iran and Britain.

In a message posted on the official Iranian presidency website, Rouhani congratulated Johnson on his appointment. Tensions between London and Tehran took a turn for the worse this month. Iranian commandos seized a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19, two weeks after British forces captured an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar, accusing it of violating sanctions on Syria.

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