IAEA increasingly concerned over Iran's nuclear weapon capability

AFP , Monday 26 Feb 2024

The UN nuclear watchdog has voiced growing concern over Iran's ability to build nuclear weapons, fuelled by public statements in the country, a confidential report seen by AFP on Monday said.

Rafael Grossi
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) speaks during to the IAEA s Board of Governors meeting at the agency s headquarters in Vienna, Austria. AFP


Tensions between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have repeatedly flared up since a 2015 deal curbing Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for sanction relief fell apart, after US administration withdrwal.

In the report, IAEA head Rafael Grossi said that "public statements made in Iran regarding its technical capabilities to produce nuclear weapons only increase the director general's concerns about the correctness and completeness of Iran's safeguards declarations".

In recent years, Iran has gradually decreased its cooperation with the IAEA by deactivating surveillance devices needed to monitor the nuclear programme and barring inspectors among other measures.

Grossi reiterated his call on Tehran to "cooperate fully and unambiguously with the agency", as relations between the two parties have been steadily deteriorating.

"Only through constructive and meaningful engagement can these concerns be addressed," Grossi said in a confidential quarterly report.

While Tehran denies seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, some politicians and officials have made concerning statements about the country's technical capabilities, a diplomatic source said.

At the same time, Iran has significantly ramped up its nuclear programme and now has enough material to build several atomic bombs.

In a separate confidential report seen by AFP ahead of an IAEA board of governors' meeting next week, the agency said that Iran's estimated stockpile of enriched uranium had reached 27 times the limit set out in the 2015 accord.

Iran's total enriched uranium stockpile was estimated at 5,525.5 kilogrammes as of February 10, up by 1,038.7 kilogrammes from October, the report said.

Nuclear weapons require uranium enriched to 90 percent, while 3.67 percent set out in the deal is enough for nuclear power stations.

According to the report, Iran has 712.2 kilogrammes of uranium enriched at up to 20 percent and 121.5 kilogrammes at up to 60 percent.

EU-mediated efforts to revive the deal, bringing the US back on board and Iran back into compliance, have so far been fruitless.

Grossi also "deeply regrets" that Iran has not yet reversed its decision to ban several of its inspectors.

Iran in September withdrew the accreditation of several inspectors, a move Teheran described as retaliation for "political abuses" by the United States, France, Germany and Britain.

The IAEA has condemned the move, which targets eight top inspectors, with French and German nationals among them, according to a diplomatic source.

Iran's "unprecedented" move has "directly and seriously affected" the UN body's work.

The Iranian government announced last week that it had invited Grossi to come to Tehran in May for an international energy conference.

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