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Source: AP News

Dec 19, 2023

West accuses Iran of illegally testing missiles, transferring drones to Russia, enriching uranium


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Western powers in the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran accused Tehran on Monday of developing and testing ballistic missiles, transferring hundreds of drones to Russia, and enriching uranium to an unprecedented 60% level for a country without a nuclear weapons program — all in violation of a U.N. resolution endorsing the deal.

Iran and its ally, Russia, dismissed the charges by Britain, France and Germany, strongly supported by the United States, which pulled out of the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2018.

The six-party agreement was aimed at ensuring that Iran could not develop atomic weapons. Under the accord, Tehran agreed to limit enrichment of uranium to levels necessary for the peaceful use of nuclear power in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

The sharp exchanges came at the Security Council’s semi-annual meeting on the implementation of its resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal.

Both Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Amir Iravani and Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia blamed the United States’ withdrawal from the JCPOA, Western sanctions and an “anti-Iran” stance for the current standoff.

Iravani said Iran is allowed to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and Nebenzia rejected alleged evidence that it was using Iranian drones in Ukraine.

Then-President Donald Trump said when unilaterally pulling out of the accord in 2018 that he would negotiate a stronger deal, but that didn’t happen. Iran began breaking the terms a year later and its 60% enrichment is near weapons-grade levels, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

Formal talks to try to find a roadmap to restart the JCPOA collapsed in August 2022.

At Monday’s council meeting, U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo stressed that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres still considers the JCPOA “the best available option to ensure that the Iranian nuclear program remains exclusively peaceful.”

She urged Iran to reverse course, as did the three European countries who issued a joint statement quoting the IAEA as saying Iran’s stockpiles of enriched uranium now stand at 22 times the JCPOA limit.

“There is no credible civilian justification for the state of Iran’s nuclear program,” the UK, France and Germany said. “The current trajectory only brings Iran closer to weapons-related capabilities.”

The Europeans and U.S. Minister Counselor John Kelley stressed that they would use all means to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

As for the future, Kelley told the council: “Iran should take actions to build international confidence and de-escalate tensions and not continue nuclear provocations that pose grave proliferation risks.”

“The United States is fully committed to resolving the international community’s concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program through diplomacy,” he said. “Unfortunately, Iran’s actions suggest this goal is not its priority.”

Iran’s Iravani said Tehran “has persistently worked toward the JCPOA revival ” and “stands prepared to resume the full implementation of its commitment on the JCPOA once it is revived.” That requires the U.S. and all other parties to fully implement their obligations as well as “genuine political attentiveness,” he said.

And Nebenzia said: “The Russian Federation is firmly convinced that there is no alternative to the JCPOA.”

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