Nuclear: ‘Old Man’ Trump Is ‘Bluffing’, Says North Korea

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC.  MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

North Korea on Monday slammed US President Trump for “bluffing” and called him “an old man bereft of patience” as Pyongyang ramps up pressure on Washington over stalled nuclear talks.

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un engaged in mutual insults and threats of devastation in 2017, sending tensions soaring before a diplomatic rapprochement the following year.

Pyongyang has set Washington an end-of-year time limit to offer it new concessions in deadlocked nuclear negotiations, and has said it will adopt an unspecified “new way” if nothing acceptable is forthcoming.

Denuclearisation negotiations have been at a standstill since a summit in Hanoi broke up in February.

Trump has indicated that the option of military action was still on the table while downplaying Pyongyang’s actions, saying the North’s leader would not want to “interfere” with the upcoming US presidential elections.

“I’d be surprised if North Korea acted hostiley,” Trump said Saturday.

But Kim Yong Chol, who served as the North’s counterpart to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo until the collapse of the Hanoi meeting, slammed Trump’s “odd words and expression”, referring to him as a “heedless and erratic old man”.

“Our action is for his surprise. So, if he does not get astonished, we will be irritated,” Kim, now the chairman of the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

“This naturally indicates that Trump is an old man bereft of patience,” he said, adding: “From those words and expressions we can read how irritated he is now.”

The official noted that the North Korean leader had not used “any irritating expression towards the US president as yet”, but warned his “understanding” of Trump could change.

“He must understand that his own style bluffing and hypocrisy sound rather abnormal and unrealistic to us,” Kim said. “We have nothing more to lose.”

The North has raised tensions in recent months with a series of assertive statements and multiple weapons tests — including a “very important test” at its key satellite launch site at the weekend — as its negotiating time limit approaches.

Kim’s New Year speech, a key political set-piece in the isolated country, is also due on January 1.

On Thursday, the North’s vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui warned of again referring to Trump as a “dotard” — Pyongyang’s favoured nickname for the US president at the height of tensions in 2017.

Another senior official said last week that what gift the US receives for Christmas will depend entirely on Washington’s actions.

AFP

Trump Warns N-Korea Has ‘Everything’ To lose Through Hostile Acts

US President Donald Trump addresses the Israeli American Council National Summit 2019 at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida on December 7, 2019. Mandel NGAN / AFP

 

 

President Donald Trump warned Sunday that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un had “everything” to lose through hostility towards the United States after Pyongyang said it had carried out a major new weapons test.

“Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way,” Trump tweeted in response to the unspecified test at the Sohae space launch center.

The announcement of Saturday’s test came just hours after Trump said he would be “surprised” by any hostile action from the North, emphasizing his “very good relationship” with Kim.

Trump and Kim engaged in months of mutual insults and threats of devastation in 2017, sending tensions soaring before a diplomatic rapprochement the following year.

The pair have met three times since June 2018 but with little progress towards denuclearization. Pyongyang has set Washington a December 31 deadline to make new concessions to kickstart stalled talks.

“North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, has tremendous economic potential, but it must denuclearize as promised,” Trump tweeted. “NATO, China, Russia, Japan, and the entire world is unified on this issue!”

Writing that Kim had “signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement” at their June 2018 summit in Singapore,” Trump warned: “He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November.”

A spokesman for North Korea’s Academy of the National Defense Science said Saturday’s “very important test” would have an “important effect” on changing the “strategic position” of North Korea, in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

The statement did not provide further details on the test.

A senior US administration official earlier said Washington had seen reports of a test and was “coordinating closely with allies and partners.”

Trump indicated that military action was still possible when he was asked about Pyongyang on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Britain this week.

North Korea fired back that if the United States used military force it would take “prompt corresponding actions at any level.”

UN diplomats fear that North Korea will resume long-range nuclear or ballistic tests if no progress is made soon in talks with the United States.

Sohae, on North Korea’s northwest coast, is ostensibly a facility designed for putting satellites into orbit.

But Pyongyang has carried out several rocket launches there that were condemned by the US and others as disguised long-range ballistic missile tests.

Following the Singapore summit, Trump said Kim had agreed to destroy “a major missile engine testing site” without naming the facility.

Kim then agreed to shutter the Sohae site during a summit last year with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang as part of trust-building measures.

Nuclear: North Korea Warns Trump Of Retaliatory Attack

Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP / KCNA VIA KNS

 

North Korea on Wednesday warned that if the United States used military force against Pyongyang it would take “prompt corresponding actions at any level”, in response to comments by US President Donald Trump. 

Denuclearisation negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington have been deadlocked since a summit in Hanoi broke up in February, and the renewed threats come as a deadline set by Pyongyang for fresh concessions approaches.

Trump on Tuesday indicated that military action was still possible when he was asked about North Korea on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Britain on Tuesday.

“He definitely likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he? That’s why I call him ‘Rocket Man’,” Trump said of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We have the most powerful military we’ve ever had, and we’re by far the most powerful country in the world. And, hopefully, we don’t have to use it, but if we do, we’ll use it. If we have to, we’ll do it,” Trump added.

Responding on Wednesday Pak Jong Chon, chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said he was “greatly disappointed” by Trump’s comments, the official KCNA news agency said.

He added that “the use of armed forces is not the privilege of the US only”.

“If the US uses any armed forces against the DPRK, we will also take prompt corresponding actions at any level,” he added, using the initials of North Korea’s official name.

North Korea has demanded the US offer it fresh concessions by the end of the year — ahead of Kim’s New Year speech on January 1, a key political set-piece in the isolated country.

Pyongyang has also issued a series of increasingly assertive comments in recent weeks.

Earlier this week, KCNA quoted Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae Song as saying: “What gift the US receives for Christmas depends entirely on the US’ decision.”

AFP

Pope Slams Nuclear Deterrent, ‘Unspeakable Horror’ Of Nagasaki

Pope Francis attends a ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park during his visit to the Japanese city of Hiroshima on November 24, 2019. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Pope Francis Sunday railed against atomic weapons, the nuclear deterrent, and the growing arms trade, as he paid tribute to the victims of the “unspeakable horror” of the Nagasaki bomb.

In a highly symbolic visit to the Japanese city devastated by the nuclear attack in August 1945, Francis said nuclear weapons were “not the answer” to a desire for security, peace, and stability.

“Indeed they seem always to thwart it,” he said.

At least 74,000 people died from the atomic bomb unleashed on the city in western Japan — just three days after the world’s first nuclear attack hit Hiroshima and killed at least 140,000.

“This place makes us deeply aware of the pain and horror that we human beings are capable of inflicting upon one another,” said the sombre pontiff on the first full day of his Japan trip.

Hundreds of people in white waterproofs sat in torrential rain to hear the pope’s speech, next to the emblematic photo of a young boy carrying his dead baby brother on his back in the aftermath of the attack.

He laid a wreath of white flowers and prayed silently, unprotected from the lashing downpour.

‘Die like a human’

Francis took aim at what he called the “perverse dichotomy” of nuclear deterrence, saying that peace is incompatible with the “fear of mutual destruction or the threat of total annihilation.”

This marked a break with past pontiffs — in a 1982 UN speech, Pope John Paul II had described nuclear deterrence as a necessary evil.

The 82-year-old Francis also hit out at the “money that is squandered and the fortune made” in the arms trade, describing it as an “affront crying out to Heaven” in a world where “millions of children are living in inhumane conditions.”

Later Sunday, Francis will visit Hiroshima and meet survivors of the atomic attack, known in Japanese as hibakusha, at the world-famous Peace Memorial in the city synonymous with the horror of nuclear war.

Two survivors of Nagasaki, 89-year-old Shigemi Fukahori and 85-year-old Sakue Shimohira, handed the wreath to the pope.

Fukahori, a Catholic, has prayed every day for those killed and their bereaved families.

“My heart is just full of overflowing feelings,” he said. “Just meeting him is enough. I’m so glad and speechless.”

Shimohira, who was 10 at the time of the attack, conveyed the terror of the bomb.

“My mother and older sister were killed, charred. Even if you survived, you couldn’t live like a human or die like a human… It’s the horror of nuclear weapons,” she said.

At a Mass at a baseball stadium in Nagasaki with worshippers now shielding their eyes from the sun, Francis said the city “bears in its soul a wound difficult to heal” and warned that “a third World War is being waged piecemeal.”

‘Fondness and affection’

The Argentine pontiff is fulfilling a long-held ambition to preach in Japan — a country he wanted to visit as a young missionary.

“Ever since I was young I have felt a fondness and affection for these lands,” said Francis when he arrived in Japan.

Like in Thailand, the first leg of his Asian tour, Catholicism is a minority religion in Japan.

Most people follow a mix of Shinto and Buddhism, with only an estimated 440,000 Catholics in the country.

Christians in Japan suffered centuries of repression, being tortured to recant their faith, and Francis paid tribute to the martyrs who died for their religion.

Alongside its nuclear history, Nagasaki is also a key city in Christian history where so-called “Hidden Christians” were discovered after keeping the faith alive in secret for 200 years while Japan was closed to the world.

The pope said in Nagasaki that as a “young Jesuit from the ‘ends of the earth'” he had found “powerful inspiration in the story of the early missionaries and the Japanese martyrs.”

Francis returns to Tokyo on Sunday night where he will on Monday meet victims of Japan’s “triple disaster” — the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown.

He is also scheduled to deliver a Mass at a Tokyo baseball stadium, meet Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito and hold talks with Japanese government officials and local Catholic leaders.

Iran Resumes Uranium Enrichment At Fordow Plant In New Stepback From Deal

 

Iran resumed uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow plant south of Tehran on Thursday in a new step back from its commitments under a landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

Engineers began feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into the plant’s mothballed enrichment centrifuges in “the first minutes of Thursday”, the statement said.

The suspension of uranium enrichment at the long secret plant was one of the restrictions Iran had agreed to on its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of UN sanctions.

Iran’s announcement on Wednesday that it would resume enrichment at the Fordow plant from midnight (2030 GMT) had drawn a chorus of concern from the remaining parties to the troubled agreement.

Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia have been trying to salvage the hard-won deal since Washington abandoned it in May last year and reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions.

They say Iran’s phased suspension of its obligations under the deal since May makes that more difficult.

The resumption of enrichment at Fordow is Iran’s fourth move away from the deal.

Uranium enrichment is the sensitive process that produces fuel for nuclear power plants but also, in highly extended form, the fissile core for a warhead.

Iran has always denied any military dimension to its nuclear programme.

It has been at pains to emphasise that all of the steps it has taken are transparent and swiftly reversible if the remaining parties to the agreement find a way to get round US sanctions.

“All these activities have been carried out under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” the Iranian nuclear organisation said.

A source close to the UN watchdog told AFP that it has inspectors on the ground in Fordow and would report “very rapidly” on the steps taken by Iran.

Iran’s latest move comes after the passing of a deadline it set for the remaining parties to the nuclear agreement to come up with a mechanism that would allow foreign firms to continue doing business with Iran without incurring US penalties.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed concern about Tehran’s announcements but said European powers should do their part.

“They are demanding that Iran fulfil all (obligations) without exception but are not giving anything in return,” he told reporters in Moscow.

The Kremlin has previously called sanctions against Iran “unprecedented and illegal”.

European concern

French President Emmanuel Macron said Iran had made “grave” decisions and its resumption of uranium enrichment was a “profound change” from Tehran’s previous position.

“I will have discussions in the coming days, including with the Iranians, and we must collectively draw the consequences,” Macron said during a trip to Beijing.

The next few weeks will be dedicated to increasing pressure on Iran to return within the framework of the pact, the French president said, adding that this must be “accompanied by an easing of some sanctions”.

“A return to normal can only take place if the United States and Iran agree to reopen a sort of trust agenda” and dialogue, Macron said, adding that he would discuss the issue with Trump.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain remained committed to a negotiated way forward but demanded that Iran abide by its obligations.

“We want to find a way forward through constructive international dialogue but Iran needs to stand by the commitments it made and urgently return to full compliance,” he said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Iran must roll back its decision to resume uranium enrichment, calling Tehran’s action “unacceptable”.

“We call on Iran to reverse all steps taken since July and return to full compliance with its commitments,” Maas told reporters in Berlin.

“Our aim is to maintain the nuclear agreement,” he said. “We have always fully implemented our commitments and Iran must now urgently relent in order to ease tensions.”

North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile Ahead Of Nuclear Talks

People watch a television news screen showing file footage of a North Korean missile launch, at a railway station in Seoul on October 2, 2019.  Jung Yeon-je / AFP

 

North Korea fired what appeared to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile, Seoul said Wednesday, just days before Washington and Pyongyang were set to resume long-stalled nuclear talks.

Pyongyang frequently couples diplomatic overtures with military moves, as a way of maintaining pressure on negotiating partners, analysts say, and may believe this weapons system gives it added leverage.

The United States voiced alarm, with a State Department spokesperson calling on North Korea “to refrain from provocations” and “remain engaged in substantive and sustained negotiations” aimed at bringing stability and denuclearisation.

A proven submarine-based missile capability would take the North’s arsenal to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and a second-strike capability in the event of an attack on its military bases.

The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected a ballistic missile early Wednesday fired in an easterly direction from the sea, northeast of the North Korean port of Wonsan.

The missile was “believed to be one of the Pukkuksong models”, the JCS said in a statement, referring to a line of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) under development by the North.

Launches like this “are not helpful to efforts to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and we urge North Korea again to stop immediately,” it added.

The North carried out a successful test of the solid-fuel Pukkuksong-1, also known as KN-11, in August 2016 which flew around 500 kilometres.

In July, North Korean state media had published pictures of Kim Jong Un inspecting a new type of submarine, fuelling concerns that Pyongyang was pushing ahead with an SLBM programme.

Analysts say the missile is believed to have been fired at a lofted angle, adding it is likely an intermediate-range ballistic missile with an actual flight range of around 2,000 kilometres.

Vipin Narang, an associate professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, drew a line between a recent series of launches by Pyongyang and Wednesday’s test, calling it “an explicitly nuclear weapons system”.

A part of the missile landed in waters within Japan’s exclusive economic zone — a 200-kilometre band around Japanese territory — Tokyo said.

“The launching of ballistic missiles violates UN Security Council resolutions and we strongly protest and strongly condemn it,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.

The North is banned from ballistic missile launches under UN Security Council resolutions.

 ‘Negotiating position’ 

The launch came a day after the North’s Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said Pyongyang had agreed to hold working-level talks with Washington later this week.

The two sides will have “preliminary contact” on Friday and hold negotiations the following day, Choe said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus later confirmed the talks, which she said would happen “within the next week”.

“It seems North Korea wants to make its negotiating position quite clear before talks even begin,” Harry Kazianis of the Center for the National Interest in Washington said after Wednesday’s launch.

“Pyongyang seems set to push Washington to back off from past demands of full denuclearisation for what are only promises of sanctions relief,” he added.

It is not the first time the North has followed up an offer of talks with a weapons test.

Pyongyang tested what it called a “super-large” rocket launcher last month just hours after Choe released a statement saying that the North was willing to resume working-level talks with Washington.

Negotiations between the two have been deadlocked since a second summit between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in February ended without a deal.

The two agreed to restart dialogue during an impromptu meeting at the Demilitarised Zone dividing the two Koreas in June, but the North’s anger at a US refusal to cancel joint military drills with South Korea put the process on hold.

Pyongyang also carried out several weapons tests since the meeting that have been downplayed by Trump, who dismissed them as “small” and insisted his personal ties with Kim remained good.

Relations thawed last month after Trump fired his hawkish national security adviser John Bolton, who Pyongyang had repeatedly denounced as a warmonger.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, North Korea’s main ally, said that the United States needed to ease its pressure campaign on Pyongyang.

Speaking to reporters, Wang said that North Korea has “taken a series of positive measures” and that the United States should “meet halfway and make a positive response.”

Iran Uses Advanced Centrifuges In New Nuclear Deal Breach – IAEA

(FILES) A file photo taken on October 26, 2010 shows the inside of reactor at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, 1200 Kms south of Tehran.  HAMED MALEKPOUR / FARS NEWS AGENCY / AFP

 

 

Iran has started using advanced models of centrifuges to enrich uranium, the UN’s nuclear watchdog said Thursday, in a new breach of the faltering 2015 deal with world powers.

Advanced centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz facility “were accumulating, or had been prepared to accumulate, enriched uranium”, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report seen by AFP.

Under the 2015 deal with world powers that puts curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief, Tehran is only meant to enrich uranium using less efficient IR-1 centrifuges.

The landmark deal has been in jeopardy since May last year when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from it and reimposed sanctions.

The remaining parties to the deal with Iran — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — have tried to salvage the accord, but Tehran has repeatedly accused Europe of not doing enough.

AFP

Trump Says Almost Sure Iran Behind Saudi Attacks

US President Donald Trump

 

US President Donald Trump declared Monday that Tehran was likely behind strikes on Saudi oil facilities, but that he wanted to be sure and he hoped to “avoid” war.

“It is certainly looking that way at this moment,” he told reporters when asked if he believes Iran carried out the attack.

Trump said “we pretty much already know” but that Washington still wanted more proof. “We want to find definitively who did this.”

“With all that being said, we’d certainly like to avoid” war, he said. “I don’t want war with anybody but we’re prepared more than anybody.”

 

US ‘Not Surprised’ Iran Starting New Nuclear Centrifuges – Defence Secretary

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (L) holds a press conference in Paris on September 7, 2019.
Zakaria ABDELKAFI / AFP

 

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday  he was “not surprised” Iran had turned on advanced centrifuges to increase uranium stockpiles, a further breach of the 2015 nuclear deal which Washington pulled out of last year.

“I’m not surprised that Iran has announced that it’s going to violate the JCPOA,” Esper said in Paris, using the official name of the accord signed in Vienna four years ago.

“They had been violating it, they had violated the nuclear non-proliferation treaty for many years, so it’s no surprise that the Iranians are going to pursue what the Iranians have always intended to pursue,” he added, following talks with his French counterpart Florence Parly.

Esper was in France after visits to London and Stuttgart, Germany, to meet with NATO allies since taking up his post in July.

READ ALSO: Nuclear: Iran Dares US, Fires Up Advanced Centrifuges

Parly reiterated France’s calls for Tehran to “respect the Vienna accord”, adding “we will continue with all our diplomatic efforts in this direction. We have to continue.”

France and other EU nations have been trying to ease tensions in the Gulf region since President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions that have hit the Iranian economy hard.

President Emmanuel Macron has overseen recent talks between French and Iranian officials, and even secured a potential opening with Trump at last month’s G7 summit, when he said he would be willing to meet with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.

Esper said he had “productive discussions” with Parly, though neither indicated any progress had been made on de-escalating the conflict.

They also agreed to disagree on the US’s new “maritime security mission” in the Gulf, aimed at ensuring open passage for vessels through the Strait of Hormuz after a series of incidents, including ship seizures by Iranian forces.

France has declined to join the US initiative and instead sought out like-minded partners for its own surveillance of the strategic waterway.

“The goal is to rally as many partners and means of surveillance as possible to improve security in the Gulf, and there’s absolutely no competition between these initiatives,” Parly said.

Esper said the US effort “is about deterring bad behaviour.”

“Obviously our preference is that all countries join underneath this broader umbrella,” he said.

 China warning 

Esper reiterated that China along with Russia were the main threats as the US shapes its defence strategy for the coming years, and warned Europe about its own vulnerabilities to the two countries as well.

“China is seeking to gain influence around the world and throughout Europe, in many ways contrary to the interests of European states,” he said.

Yet the prospect of huge Chinese spending has opened doors to Beijing across the Indo-Pacific region and into Africa, with Italy also recently accepting billions of euros from China for a major port expansion.

“As countries increase their dependence on Chinese investment and trade, they become more susceptible to coercion and retribution when they act outside of Beijing’s wishes,” Esper said.

But he declined to confirm if the US defence shift toward China and Russia would lead to fewer American troops in Africa, where France is leading efforts against Islamic terrorist groups operating across large swaths of sub-Saharan territory.

“I’ve not made any decisions,” Esper said. “I’m looking at every theatre, and every command, to figure out how I can economise our forces, how I can optimise our assets.”

He praised France’s role, saying its was “directly benefiting the security of Europe,” and revealing that “earlier this week our French partners provided a lifesaving medical evacuation for a US soldier in Africa.”

Analysts have speculated the US may shift to a drone-based presence for Africa, and France has often sought American surveillance and drone strikes for operations by its 4,500-strong Barkhane counter-insurgency force.

AFP

Nuclear: Iran Dares US, Fires Up Advanced Centrifuges

A handout picture released by Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization on September 7, 2019, shows spokesman for the organization Behrouz Kamalvandi speaking during a press conference in the capital Tehran. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran / AFP

 

Iran said Saturday it has fired up advanced centrifuges to boost its enriched uranium stockpiles, in the latest scaling back of commitments under a crumbling 2015 nuclear deal.

The country’s Atomic Energy Organisation said, however, that it would honour commitments to give UN inspectors access to monitor its nuclear sites.

Three European countries — Britain, France and Germany — have been engaged in talks to try to rescue the 2015 deal that gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Tensions have been escalating between Iran and the United States since May last year when President Donald Trump pulled out of the accord and began reimposing sanctions that have crippled its economy.

READ ALSO: US ‘Not Surprised’ Iran Starting New Nuclear Centrifuges – Defence Secretary

The arch-foes were on the cusp of confrontation in June when Iran downed a US drone and Trump ordered retaliatory strikes before cancelling them at the last minute.

On Saturday, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation said it had activated 20 IR-4 and 20 IR-6 centrifuges as its latest step back in rolling back its commitments.

“The centrifuge machines, as they are engaged in research and development, will help with increasing the stockpile,” said the agency’s spokesman, Behrouz Kamalvandi.

“The capacity of these machines is many times more than the previous machines. This started as of yesterday (Friday),” he told a news conference in Tehran.

US ‘not surprised’ 

Under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran was allowed to enrich uranium using only first generation — or IR-1 — centrifuges.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said he was “not surprised that Iran has announced that it’s going to violate the JCPOA”.

“It’s no surprise that the Iranians are going to pursue what the Iranians have always intended to pursue,” he said in Paris.

Kamalvandi said Iran would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to continue monitoring its nuclear programme, as it has done under the 2015 accord.

“Regarding the monitoring and accesses of the IAEA… so that everything is clear (Iran’s) commitments regarding transparency will be followed as before,” the spokesman said.

The European Union on Friday emphasised its reliance on the UN nuclear watchdog to monitor Iran’s activities as it voiced “great concern” over the country’s decision to roll back its commitments.

The IAEA in its latest report, on August 30, said it continues to verify compliance through cameras and on-site inspections.

But in an apparent hint at worries about access it said “ongoing interactions… require full and timely cooperation by Iran”.

 Europe ‘must hurry’ 

The latest move by Iran came after EU members Britain, France and Germany were unable to find a way to offset the impact of sanctions on the country before a September 7 deadline set by the Islamic republic.

“If Europe wants to do something, it must hurry, because returning to the situation before reducing commitments could take time,” Kamalvandi said.

Tehran has already hit back twice with countermeasures in response to the US withdrawal from the 2015 deal.

On July 1, Iran said it had increased its stockpile of enriched uranium to beyond the 300-kilogram maximum set by the deal.

A week later, it announced it had exceeded a 3.67-percent cap on the purity of its uranium stocks.

On Saturday, however, Iran indicated it had no plans to step up the enrichment of uranium to higher levels.

“We currently do not need 20 percent enrichment, and if we do so at some time, we will first increase the 4.5 percent stockpile and then act,” said Kalamvandi.

The announcement came on the eve of a visit to Iran by the acting head of the IAEA, Cornel Feruta.

Kamalvandi said Feruta would meet the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Nuclear Deal: Iran ‘Playing With Fire’ – Trump

US President Donald Trump speaks at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC. Trump. Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump warned Monday that Iran is “playing with fire” after Tehran said it exceeded a limit on enriched uranium reserves under a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by Washington.

Israel urged European states to sanction Iran, while Russia voiced regret but said the move was a consequence of US pressure, which has pushed the deal towards collapse.

READ ALSO: Macron Asks Iran To ‘Immediately’ Reduce Enriched Uranium Reserves

Britain called on Tehran “to avoid any further steps away” from the landmark deal, and the UN said Iran must stick to its commitments under the accord.

“Iran has crossed the 300-kilogram limit based on its plan” announced in May, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told semi-official news agency ISNA.

But he also said the move could be reversed.

“They know what they’re doing. They know what they’re playing with and I think they’re playing with fire,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about Iran.

The United States withdrew from the nuclear deal last year and hit Iran’s crucial oil exports and financial transactions as well as other sectors with biting sanctions.

Tehran, which has sought to pressure the remaining parties to save the deal, announced on May 8 it would no longer respect the limit set on its enriched uranium and heavy water stockpiles.

It threatened to abandon further nuclear commitments unless the remaining partners — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — helped it circumvent sanctions, especially to sell its oil.

The White House had earlier said “the United States and its allies will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons,” vowing to continue exerting “maximum pressure” on the regime.

“It was a mistake under the Iran nuclear deal to allow Iran to enrich uranium at any level,” spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

The statement added that “even before the deal’s existence, Iran was violating its terms,” to which Zarif reacted on Tuesday by tweeting “seriously?”

 ‘One mustn’t dramatize’ 

Zarif insisted Iran had done nothing wrong. “We have NOT violated the #JCPOA,” he tweeted, referring to the deal.

He said Iran would “reverse” its decision “as soon as E3 abide by their obligations” — referring to the European parties to the deal: Britain, France and Germany.

Zarif’s USn counterpart Mike Pompeo accused Iran of using its nuclear program “to extort the international community and threaten regional security.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Iran had exceeded the limit that the deal imposed on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU).

A diplomat in Vienna, where the UN’s nuclear watchdog is based, told AFP that Iran had exceeded the 300 kilograms (661 pound) limit by two kilograms.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said Iran’s move was a cause for “regret” but also “a natural consequence of recent events” and a result of the “unprecedented pressure” from the US.

“One mustn’t dramatize the situation,” Ryabkov, whose country is a close ally of Tehran, said in comments reported by Russian news agencies.

Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said on Twitter that London was “deeply worried” and urged Iran to “come back to compliance” with the nuclear deal.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said it was “essential” that Iran sticks to the deal.

‘Europe’s efforts not enough’ 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged European countries to impose sanctions on his country’s arch-foe Iran.

Trump spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday about Iran’s breach of the nuclear deal limit, the White House said.

The US president expressed hope in an interview broadcast Monday — which was taped prior to Iran’s announcement on the uranium limit — that Tehran will come to the negotiating table.

“Hopefully, at some point, they’ll come back and they’ll say, ‘We’re going to make a deal.’ Let’s see what happens,” Trump told Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

The European Union said Friday after a crisis meeting aimed at salvaging the deal that a special payment mechanism set up to help Iran skirt the sanctions, known as INSTEX, was finally “operational” and that the first transactions were being processed.

But “the Europeans’ efforts were not enough, therefore Iran will go ahead with its announced measures,” Zarif said.

INSTEX, which “is just the beginning” of their commitments, has not yet been fully implemented, he added.

The 2015 deal saw Iran commit to never acquiring an atomic bomb, accept drastic limits on its nuclear program and submit to IAEA inspections in exchange for a partial lifting of crippling international sanctions.

Iran has also threatened to start enriching uranium above the agreed maximum purification level of 3.67 per cent from July 7. That remains far short of the 90 per cent purity required to build a weapon.

The latest tensions coincide with a buildup of US forces in the Gulf and a series of incidents including Iran’s shooting down of a US drone it claimed had entered its airspace.

AFP

US Will ‘Never Allow’ Iran To Develop Nuclear Weapons – White House

 

The United States will “never allow” Iran to develop nuclear weapons, the White House warned Monday, after Tehran said it had exceeded a limit on enriched uranium reserves set under a 2015 nuclear deal.

“Maximum pressure on the Iranian regime will continue until its leaders alter their course of action,” said a statement from White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.

“The United States and its allies will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons,” it said, calling it “a mistake under the Iran nuclear deal to allow Iran to enrich uranium at any level. ”

AFP