TEHRAN: Iran has opened a uranium dioxide factory that will produce fuel for civilian nuclear plants, the head of its atomic energy agency announced Saturday.
Ali Akbar Salehi said the factory in Esfahan, central Iran, which produce uranium dioxide enriched to a level of less than 5 percent was opened in keeping with an agreement between Tehran and world powers. Its main use would be for the Bushehr nuclear reactor in southern Iran, he said, quoted by state news agency IRNA. “Under the agreement with the P5+1 which came into effect in January, we are to transform a part of the enriched uranium to less than five percent oxide,” said Salehi.
The deal with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — known as P5+1 — calls for a scaling back of Iran’s controversial nuclear programme in return for a partial lifting of Western sanctions. The target date for a final deal has been put back to November 24. By August 25, Tehran must also respond to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on decade-old allegations of past nuclear weapons research.
Tehran denies it wants nuclear weapons, insisting it is pursuing atomic energy purely for peaceful purposes. While some differences have been reconciled, disagreements remain over how much uranium Iran would be allowed to enrich and on the lifting of international economic sanctions. A new round of talks between Tehran and the P5+1 is expected before the UN General Assembly starts on September 16.
Meanwhile, Iran will not give UN nuclear inspectors access to a military base outside Tehran that they have been seeking to visit since 2005, Defence Minister Hossein Dehgan said on Saturday. Dehgan’s comments, reported by the ISNA news agency, came just two days before a deadline for Iran to answer historic allegations of a military dimension to its nuclear research.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Yukiya Amano, who visited Tehran earlier this month, had said in June that access to the Parchin base was essential for the watchog to be able to certify Iran’s nuclear programme as peaceful. The base lies at the centre of allegations of past Iranian research into sophisticated explosives that can be used to detonate a nuclear warhead.
In his June report, Amano said satellite photographs suggested that new research was also being carried out at the base this year. “Since February this year, we again start to observe activities... these activities continue,” he said. Iran has repeatedly refused the IAEA access to the base but “we keep on insisting to have access to that particular site in Parchin, to the people and to their documents,” Amano said in the report.
Meanwhile, Iran denied linking any future cooperation with the international community against jihadists in Iraq to the lifting of crippling Western sanctions. Earlier, the official IRNA news agency quoted Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as suggesting that Tehran could help the international community if it lifted the sanctions. “If we agree to do something in Iraq, the other side of the negotiations should do something in return,” IRNA had quoted Zarif as saying.
“All the sanctions that are related to Iran’s nuclear programme should be lifted.” His reported comments followed a call by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Wednesday for all countries in the region, including Iran, to join the fight against Islamic State (IS) fighters who have seized swathes of Iraq as well as parts of neighbouring Syria.
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