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US accuses Iran of violating nuclear safeguards, calls for global pressure

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo (U.S. State Department photo by Freddie Everett)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States has called for Iran to be held accountable for its commitments under international nuclear treaties, accusing Tehran of violating safeguards.

“All nations must hold Iran accountable to its commitments, otherwise the NPT [Nuclear Proliferation Treaty] isn’t worth the paper it is written on,” U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo told a news conference on March 5.

Earlier this week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran has nearly tripled its stockpile of enriched uranium over the past three months in sharp violation of the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with six world powers.

The UN nuclear watchdog also said on March 3 that Iran appears to have three undeclared atomic sites, which the IAEA is insisting on “clarifications” from Tehran.

“Iran’s intentional failure to declare such nuclear material as reported by the IAEA this week, would constitute a clear violation of its safeguard agreements required by the NPT. The regime must immediately cooperate with the IAEA and fully comply with its obligations,” Pompeo said.

“The IAEA’s reports are all the more troubling because Iran continues to lie about its past nuclear weapons program, just as it lied about the downing of a civilian airliner and its suppression of the extent of its coronavirus outbreak,” he added.

Iran in 2015 signed the nuclear accord with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and the European Union, but the United States abandoned the deal in 2018 and introduced new sanctions against Iranian officials and can punish entities that do business with Tehran.

Iran has said it no longer considered itself bound by the agreement and has gradually reduced some of its commitments under the deal.

It has said it would be willing to move back to full compliance with the deal if Europe provides “meaningful” economic benefits, but it has complained that Germany, France, and Britain have not done enough to mitigate the harm U.S. sanctions have caused.

In its report, the IAEA said Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium had reached 1,020.9 kilograms, far above the limit of 300 kilograms allowed in the agreement.

In its previous report, in November 2019, the IAEA said the stockpile was at 372.3 kilograms.

Some experts have said Iran is reaching a level sufficient to produce a nuclear weapon, but they caution it would require several more steps — including further enrichment — to make the material suitable for use in a bomb.

Iran has insisted that its nuclear program is strictly for civilian and energy uses.

The IAEA also said that Tehran refused to grant access to two of three suspected nuclear sites that the UN agency wanted to visit in late January.