TEHRAN REOPENS URANIUM FEEDSTOCK PLANT
UNITED NATIONS, June 28, (Agencies): The United States urged fellow UN Security Council members to punish Iran for “malign behavior” in the Middle East, at a meeting on implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.
“When confronted with a country that continually violates this council’s resolutions, it is imperative that we pursue meaningful consequences,” said Jonathan Cohen, the US deputy ambassador to the United Nations.
“That is why we urge members of this Council to join us in the imposition of sanctions that target Iran’s malign behavior in the region,” he stressed.
It was the first meeting of the Security Council since US President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that the United States was withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Tehran.
On May 24, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded for the eleventh time Tehran had met its commitments.
In his remarks, Cohen once again accused Iran of supplying missiles to the Houthi rebels in Yemen in violation of an international arms embargo.
In a recent report, the United Nations said that missile components fired at Saudi Arabia had been manufactured in Iran, but that UN officials were unable to determine if they had been delivered before or after the July 2016 imposition of an arms embargo on Yemen.
“Dismantling a nuclear deal that is working would certainly not put us in a better position to discuss other issues,” said EU ambassador to the UN Joao Vale de Almeida, referring to Tehran’s ballistic activities and its influence in the Middle East.
“The collapse of this major achievement would mark a serious step backwards for the region, for the non-proliferation regime but also for our security for all, which would potentially have serious consequences,” said French ambassador Francois Delattre.
Iran has, meanwhile, reopened a nuclear plant idle for nine years, its atomic energy agency (AEOI) said on Wednesday, as Tehran prepares to increase uranium enrichment capacity if a nuclear deal with world powers falls apart after the US withdrawal.
US-Iranian tensions have resurged since President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the 2015 nuclear accord, calling it deeply flawed. Under the deal, Iran restricted its enrichment programme to ease concerns it could not be put to developing nuclear weapons and in return won relief from sanctions.
European signatories are trying to save the accord, which they see as crucial to forestalling an Iranian nuclear weapon. However, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the AEOI this month to start preparations to upgrade enrichment capacity in case the European efforts fail.
The AEOI said on Wednesday that in response to Khamenei’s order and Trump’s renunciation of the deal, a plant for the production of UF6, the feedstock for centrifuge machines that enrich uranium, had been relaunched and a barrel of yellow cake has been delivered there.
Uranium ore, known as yellow cake, is converted into a gas called uranium hexafluoride (UF6) before enrichment.
The UF6 factory, which had been inactive since 2009 due to a lack of yellow cake, is part of the Isfahan uranium conversion facility, according to AEOI’s statement on its website.
“Iran has imported a huge amount of yellow cake since the nuclear deal” in 2015, and had also produced some domestically.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog that is policing Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, said on June 5 that the AEOI had informed it of “tentative” plans to resume production of UF6.
The move is symbolic and permissible under the nuclear deal, which allows Iran to enrich uranium to 3.67 percent, far below the 90 percent of weapons-grade uranium, and caps its stock of enriched uranium hexafluoride at 300 kilograms (660 pounds).
President Hassan Rouhani has written to counterparts in France, Germany and Britain, warning that time to salvage the nuclear deal is running out.
Rouhani’s chief of staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the government’s website that Rouhani had expressed Iran’s demands “very clearly” in this letter.
Washington will start reimposing some economic penalties on Tehran in August and more in November.
The tightening of US sanctions pressure has set Washington and Tehran, adversaries since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, back on a course of confrontation after a period of cautious detente under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama. Rouhani urged Iranians on Wednesday to “bring America to its knees”.
Rouhani said on Thursday Tehran was closer to its goal of self-sufficiency in gasoline production after inaugurating the second phase of the Persian Gulf Star Refinery in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas.
Weeks after President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran and threatened to reimpose sanctions on Iran, the United States told all countries on Tuesday to stop importing Iranian oil from November.
“When under threat of sanctions by our enemy, if we control and reduce our domestic consumption of gasoline … we can say that we are self-sufficient in fuel production,” Rouhani said in a televised speech.
OPEC member Iran has for years struggled to meet its domestic fuel needs due to a lack of refining capacity and international sanctions that limited the supply of spare parts for plant maintenance.
Iran’s Gulf Star Refinery converts light crude, known as condensate, into gasoline and naphtha. Rouhani said that with the inauguration of the new phase, the refinery would produce 24 million litres of petrol per day.
“If we can reduce our domestic consumption of 80 million litres of gasoline per day … we can even export gasoline,” Rouhani said.
Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said the refinery, once fully operational, would produce 36 million litres of petrol per day.
“With the refinery becoming fully operational, we will have no concerns over sanctions,” he said on Iran’s Oil Ministry website SHANA.
Khatam al Anbia Construction Headquarters (KAA), the engineering arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), was one of the main contractors of the project.
Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency says a fire in an oil refinery in the city of Abadan in southwestern Khuzestan province has killed one person and injured 18.
Thursday’s report says that the Abadan petrochemical complex caught fire on midnight Wednesday and that 10 of the injured were transferred to hospital.
The report didn’t elaborate on what caused the fire.
Fires and similar incidents occur occasionally in Iran’s aging oil-related facilities that were hit hard by years of Western sanctions.
A fire at an oil rig in southern Iran in October killed four workers. It happened just days after another fire at an oil refinery killed seven workers.
In 2016, several fires at Iranian petrochemical plants and facilities raised suspicions about hacking potentially having played a role in starting them.