President Hassan Rouhani (R) and the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi inspecting a nuclear plant, Tehran, April 9, 2019


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has lashed out at his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, accusing him of speaking “absurd nonsense”.

Le Drian said in an interview published on Saturday that Iran was building up its capacity for a nuclear weapons program. He said that it is urgent that Iran and the US return to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia).

Zarif responded on Twitter:

Zarif reacted to criticism by the UK, France, and Germany of Iranian plans to produce uranium metal: “[You] have done ZILCH to maintain JCPOA [the 2015 deal].”

ORIGINAL ENTRY, JAN 17: The UK, France, and Germany have rebuked Iran’s over its plans to produce uranium metal, saying the step jeopardizes the 2015 nuclear deal.

The three European powers, along with Russia and China, are in the accord with Tehran. The Trump Administration withdrew the US from the agreement in May 2018, implementing comprehensive sanctions six months later.

The deal has a 15-year ban on “producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys”. However, Tehran said last week that it will resume production, its latest suspension of provisions after the American withdrawal.

The incoming Biden Administration may enter talks to rejoin the accord. However, both Washington and the European powers want revision of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, covering Iran’s ballistic missile programs and extending the terminal dates of its arrangements.

But possibly seeking leverage in the discussions, the Rouhani Government announced earlier this month that it is restarting production of 20% enriched uranium, which potentially can be enhanced to a military grade of more than 90%.

UPDATED: Iran to IAEA — We Are Resuming Enrichment of 20% Uranium

“Potentially Grave Military Implications”

The UK, French, and German Foreign Ministers said in a joint statement on Saturday that there is no credible civilian use for uranium metal”:

The production…has potentially grave military implications.

We strongly urge Iran to halt this activity, and return to compliance with its JCPOA commitments without further delay if it is serious about preserving the deal.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it was notified by Iran of the advanced research on uranium metal production, ostensibly for fuel for a research reactor in Tehran.

Responding to the Europeans, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation put the burden on the IAEA to avoid ““misunderstanding in the future, by refraining from mentioning unnecessary details in its reports”. Tehran said that it has not yet “presented the design information questionnaire of the uranium metal factory”.