IAEA inspectors gain access to one of two Iran sites

The UN's nuclear watchdog said Friday that Iran had granted its inspectors access to one of two sites where undeclared nuclear activity may have taken place in the early 2000s.

"Iran provided Agency inspectors access to the location to take environmental samples," an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report seen by AFP said.

"The samples will be analysed by laboratories that are part of the Agency's network," it added.

One diplomatic source told AFP the results of this analysis could take up to three months.

An inspection at the second site will take place "later in September 2020," the report said.

Iran had denied the agency access earlier this year, prompting the IAEA's board of governors to pass a resolution in June urging Tehran to comply with its requests.

Tehran announced last week it would allow the IAEA access to the two sites, following a visit by IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi.

In a separate report also issued on Friday, the IAEA said Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium now stands at more than ten times the limit set down in a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The limit was set at 300 kilogrammes (661 pounds) of enriched uranium in a particular compound form, which is the equivalent of 202.8 kg of uranium.

Measured against the latter figure, Iran's stockpile now stands at over 2,105 kg, the report said.

Iran is also continuing to use more advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium than is permitted under the deal.

However, the level of enrichment has not gone above that which would be needed for use in a nuclear weapon.

- US trying to up pressure -

The 2015 deal has been fraying ever since US President Donald Trump dramatically withdrew from it in May 2018 and re-imposed swingeing sanctions on Iran.

Tehran has responded by progressively exceeding limits on its nuclear activities set down in the deal.

In recent months the Trump administration has tried to increase pressure on Iran, but Washington suffered a humiliating defeat in August when it failed in its bid to reimpose international sanctions on the Islamic republic.

At a meeting in Vienna earlier this week the remaining parties to the 2015 deal -- Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia -- said they remained committed to the deal and wanted to find a way to ensure its "full implementation despite current challenges".

The second IAEA report issued Friday also gave an update on another location in Tehran which had not been declared to the agency and where it found uranium particles last year.

The Agency has analysed samples from the site, the results of which were "not inconsistent" with information provided by Iran about the possible origin of the particles.

"However, the Agency has recently informed Iran that there are a number of other findings for which further clarifications and information need to be provided," the report says.

Unravelling of the Iran nuclear deal
Tehran (AFP) Sept 4, 2020 - A landmark 2015 deal on Iran's nuclear programme has been falling apart since the United States unilaterally pulled out of the agreement in May 2018.

Here is a snapshot:

- US withdrawal -

On May 8, 2018, President Donald Trump withdraws the US from the deal negotiated between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) plus Germany.

"We cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement," Trump says.

- US sanctions -

In August and November 2018, Washington reimposes sanctions on Iran and companies with ties to it, notably hitting Iran's vital oil sector and central bank.

Major international firms halt their activities and projects in Iran.

In May 2019, Washington ends its sanctions exemptions for countries buying Iranian crude.

- Iran starts walk-back -

Iran that month announces its first step back from the deal, seeking to pressure the European signatories to help it get round the sanctions.

Trump then sanctions Iran's steel and mining sectors.

In July, Tehran says it has exceeded the accord's restrictions on its enriched uranium reserves and uranium enrichment level.

- More steps -

In September, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear watchdog says Iran has started using advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium.

On November 4, Tehran says its enrichment increased tenfold and that it has developed two new advanced centrifuges.

Later that month, it resumes enrichment at its underground Fordow plant in its fourth walk-back and says its heavy water reserves have passed the accord's limit.

- More centrifuges -

Tensions between Washington and Tehran spiral after a January 2020 US drone strike kills top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, sparking a tit-for-tat confrontation.

Iran announces its fifth step back from the deal on January 5, foregoing a limit on its number of centrifuges.

- Dispute mechanism -

On February 14, Iran demands significant economic advantages from Europe in return for cancelling all or part of its rollback measures.

On March 31, European signatories say they have delivered medical goods to Iran in the first transaction under the Instex mechanism set up to bypass the US sanctions.

- Over the limit -

On May 27, Washington ends sanctions waivers for nations that remain in the accord, which allow companies, primarily from Russia, that are still present in Iran to carry out the agreement.

On June 5, the IAEA says Iran has accumulated enriched uranium at nearly eight times the limit of the accord and has for months blocked inspections at sites where historic nuclear activity may have occurred.

On June 19, IAEA governors pass a resolution critical of Iran, the first of its kind since 2012, urging Tehran to provide its inspectors with access to two sites.

- Setback for the US -

On August 14, the UN Security Council rejects a US resolution aimed at extending the embargo on arms sales to Iran that expires in October.

On August 20, the United States formally begins the process of activating a controversial mechanism aimed at reimposing UN sanctions on Iran, but immediately comes up against opposition from European and other powers.

On September 1, the remaining signatories to the accord reiterate their will to save it.

- Iran still enriching uranium -

On September 4, the IAEA says Iran has granted its inspectors access to one of the two sites and that Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium now stands at more than ten times the limit set down in the 2015 deal.

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Iran hails support for nuclear deal against US
Tehran (AFP) Sept 2, 2020
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday hailed the show of unity by parties to a 2015 nuclear deal, after they defeated US efforts to restore international sanctions. Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia - dubbed the "4+1" - are struggling to save the accord after the United States withdrew from it in 2018. Washington unilaterally reimposed sanctions on the Islamic republic. Iran has stepped up its nuclear activities in the past year in retaliation for Washington's pullout from ... read more

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