VIENNA — Iran has continued to increase its stockpiles of enriched uranium and remains in violation of its deal with world powers, the United Nations’ atomic watchdog said Friday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency reported the finding in a confidential document distributed to member countries and seen by The Associated Press.
The agency said that as of May 20, Iran’s total stockpile of low-enriched uranium amounted to 1,571.6 kilograms (1.73 tons), up from 1,020.9 kilograms (1.1 tons) on Feb. 19.
Iran signed the nuclear deal in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia. Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, it allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms (447 pounds).
The U.S. unilaterally pulled out of the deal in 2018.
The IAEA reported that Iran has also been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of 4.5 percent, higher than the 3.67 percent allowed under the JCPOA. It is also above the pact’s limitations on heavy water.
The nuclear deal promised Iran economic incentives in return for the curbs on its nuclear program. Since President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal, Iran has been slowly violating the restrictions.
The ultimate goal of the JCPOA is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb — something that Tehran says it does not want to do. It has been open about the violations and continues to allow IAEA inspectors access to its facilities to monitor their operations.
It is now in violation of all restrictions outlined by the JCPOA, which Tehran says it hopes will pressure the other nations involved to increase economic incentives to make up for hard-hitting sanctions imposed by Washington after the U.S. withdrawal.
Though Iran has been hard hit by the new coronavirus pandemic, the IAEA said it has maintained its verification and monitoring activities in the country, primarily by chartering aircraft to fly inspectors to and from Iran.
It cited “exceptional cooperation” from authorities in Austria, where it is based, and Iran in facilitating the operation.
Meanwhile, Russia is defending Iran’s right to launch a satellite, dismissing U.S. claims that Tehran was defying the U.N. resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal by sending it into space.
Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, said that “the ongoing attempts of the United States side to deprive Iran of the right to reap the benefits of peaceful space technology under false pretexts are a cause for serious concern and profound regret.”
He dismissed as “”misleading" U.S. accusations that the April 22 satellite launch carried out by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps went against the 2015 resolution, which also calls on Iran not to undertake any ballistic missile-related activities capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
“Iran has never possessed nuclear weapons, nor does it possess these weapons now, nor, we expect, will it ever possess them in the future,” Nebenzia said in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council circulated Thursday.
Since the Iran nuclear deal was adopted in 2015, he said, “Iran has been the most verified state by the International Atomic Energy Agency” and “it is an established fact that Iran does not possess, nor develop, nor test or use ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
The Russian ambassador was responding to a letter from U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft to the council president last month saying that “space launch vehicles incorporate technologies that are virtually identical to and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
“We once again urge the international community to hold Iran accountable for its actions,” she wrote. “Iran’s further development of ballistic missile technology contributes to regional tension and poses a threat to international peace and security.”
Craft urged the Security Council to strengthen existing sanctions on Iran to address the threat and to consider reimposing “binding restrictions” against its repeated missile and satellite launches.
David Rising reported from Berlin.