France, Russia urge restraint as Iran produces uranium metal

UN’s nuclear watchdog says that it has verified the production of 3.6g of uranium metal at a plant in Iran.

Iran said last month it was researching uranium metal production [File: Vahid Salemi/AP Photo]

France and Russia have urged Iran to show restraint after it started producing uranium metal in a new breach of limits laid out in Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

The warnings came after the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it had verified the production of 3.6g of uranium metal at a plant in Iran.

“To preserve the political space to find a negotiated solution, we call on Iran not to take any new measures that would further worsen the nuclear situation, already extremely worrying due to the accumulation of violations of the Vienna Accord, including the latest just reported by the IAEA,” French foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said on Thursday.

Earlier, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov urged Tehran to show restraint.

“We understand the logic of their actions and the reasons prompting Iran. Despite this it is necessary to show restraint and a responsible approach,” he told state news agency RIA Novosti.

The IAEA said in a statement on Wednesday that Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi informed its member states “about recent developments regarding Iran’s R&D activities on uranium metal production as part of its stated aim to produce fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor”.

The IAEA report, seen by Reuters news agency, and a previous one, said that Iran planned to carry out research on uranium metal using natural uranium before moving on to uranium metal enriched to 20 percent, the level it is enriching uranium to now, short of the 90 percent that is weapons grade.

“The Agency on 8 February verified 3.6 gram of uranium metal at Iran’s Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant (FPFP) in Esfahan,” the IAEA statement said.

Iran’s landmark deal – reached in 2015 with the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France, Britain and the European Union – contained a 15-year ban on “producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys”.

Iran said last month it was researching uranium metal production, a sensitive issue because uranium metal can be used as a component in nuclear weapons.

Ryabkov said Iran’s move demonstrated Tehran’s “determination not to put up with the current situation” after it warned that time was running out for US President Joe Biden’s administration to save the agreement.

In 2018, US President Donald Trump dramatically withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed crippling economic sanctions on Tehran.

Trump’s successor Biden is seeking to revive the agreement, but the two sides appear to be in a standoff over who acts first.

Sanctions remain

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday said he was disappointed with Biden so far, due to a lack of progress regarding nuclear policy and US sanctions.

“We have still not seen any goodwill from the new government,” Rouhani told state television.

He called on Biden to immediately reverse the policy of maximum pressure implemented by Trump and end the “criminal” economic sanctions against Iran.

Rouhani has indicated several times he wants to avoid further escalation on the matter but also counter a collapse of the Iranian economy, crippled by the sanctions.

Iran has given the United States until February 21 to lift the sanctions, after which Tehran saysi it would resort to other means, for instance limiting inspections by the IAEA.

Source: News Agencies