A former official at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran believes that the Islamic Republic must keep enriching its uranium whether the other parties to the JCPOA buy it or not.
Hossein Abniki says Tehran is currently implementing the JCPOA, and it is not supposed to violate it. He believes that the European countries must also act on the basis of the former procedure stressing the recent US sanctions and its subsequent constraints have nothing to do with the JCPOA, and should not be paid heed to, therefore; it should be continued as before.
Here is Khabar Online’s interview with Hossein Abniki, the former director of the Development Centre of AEOI:
Q: What is your idea about Washington’s refusal to extend certain waivers related to nuclear cooperation with Iran?
A: It is expected that the P5 + 1 parties will resist the new policy of US President Donald Trump and will not allow Washington to take such an action. Naturally, if we cannot transfer our heavy water abroad, we can continue producing it.
Q: What is your proposed solution in the face of these new restrictions?
A: We must not obey the restrictions or recognise them as they are practically contrary to the obligations of the JCPOA parties. The Islamic Republic is currently implementing the JCPOA and it is not supposed to violate it. The European countries must also act on the basis of the former procedure. The recent US sanctions and its subsequent constraints have nothing to do with the JCPOA, and should not be paid heed to, so it should be continued as before.
Q: Your recommendation of keeping up with the current procedure comes as Iran is only one side of it and the other sides are the buyers who must continue to buy uranium and heavy water. Is there a guarantee that those parties would overlook these restrictions?
A: The procedure was that a part of our production was stored abroad, and when there was a buyer, it could supply its needs from this store. If there is no customer, we must not insist to sell the stocked heavy-water. For some reason, someone might not come to an agreement with us to buy it. Before the nuclear deal we used to produce it and nobody was buying it. We can have our own production and continue the same process and sell it at the prime time. Increasing this stockpile is a strategic move. So, if under the US pressure, Russia, China and European parties do not interact with us, we can continue as before the deal.
Q: You pointed out that we were storing the heavy water outside the country. One of the most significant restrictions announced is the lifting of waiver to transfer heavy water to Oman. This means Iran will no longer be able to store heavy water in Oman.
A: Before that, we were storing it in the country.
Q: If we store it inside Iran, won’t it be contrary to the deal?
A: If Oman and Europeans fail to act within the framework of the JCPOA, there is no other option, and we will return to the pre-nuclear deal conditions. It means, we continue our production and store it inside the country. If they dictate us that Iran’s heavy water should be kept outside the country, the grounds must also be prepared. We do not have any problem with it and we used to do it. If the host country does not accept, they should introduce an alternative country.
Q: How do you assess the restriction of exchanging enriched uranium with yellow cake and what is your analysis of its consequences?
A: This exchange has already taken place, and new restrictions may have an impact on future exchanges. In the new situation, we must wait for the reaction of the Russian side and other parties and see whether they obey the recent decision of the US. Then, we can decisively declare our position. However, if the parties do not consent, we can have what we had till now. It should not be forgotten that this exchange has not been very beneficial to us so far, and its failure is not considered a limitation to Iran. Whether the heavy water transfer or the exchange of enriched uranium with yellow cake were not very helpful to us, so we are not losing anything now.
Q: Do you mean Iran must overlook the restrictions because the Americans also overlooked them?
A: The problem is that the challenge is not ours. They were supposed to prepare grounds under which Iran takes action. Now that these conditions are not met, we are not practically bound to implement them. It is not that we go beyond the framework of the JCPOA. We can still implement it, but its conditions are not met. It is likely that Americans will want to make such an impression that Iran has violated the JCPOA. They are leveling these charges against us right now. But the international community does not accept it. As the IAEA and the parties to the JCPOA have so far refused to do so, I do not think anyone would accept this in future. Iran has already complied with the requirements of the JCPOA and will continue to do so. But if the other parties are somehow banned from cooperation, that would be an acceptable excuse to go in that way.
Abniki’s statements come in a situation that Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani also noted that despite Washington’s move to stop it, Iran will continue with low-level uranium enrichment in line with its nuclear deal with world powers.
“Under the JCPOA, Iran can produce heavy water, and based on the agreement, we have not carried out anything in violation of it,” Larijani said on Saturday.
“Therefore we will carry on with enrichment activity. You can either buy it or not,” he added.
The administration of US President Donald Trump on Friday imposed sanctions on Iran’s export of enriched uranium but at the same time renewed three key waivers that will allow its European allies, Russia and China to cooperate with the Islamic Republic on civil nuclear program.
“Any involvement in transferring enriched uranium out of Iran in exchange for natural uranium will now be exposed to sanctions. The United States has been clear that Iran must stop all proliferation-sensitive activities, including uranium enrichment, and we will not accept actions that support the continuation of such enrichment,” the US State Department announced in a statement.
Under the nuclear deal, the Islamic Republic is limited to keeping 300 kilograms of uranium enriched up to 3.67 percent. As part of the nuclear deal, Tehran is allowed to sell any enriched uranium above that threshold on international markets in exchange for natural uranium.