UN atomic watchdog: Iran further raising nuclear stockpile

Vienna, Nov 17 (AP) The United Nations’ atomic watchdog says it believes Iran has further increased its stockpile of highly enriched uranium in breach of a 2015 accord with world powers.

The International Atomic Energy Agency told member nations in its confidential quarterly report Wednesday that Iran has an estimated stock of 17.7 kilograms (39 pounds) of uranium enriched to up to 60 per cent fissile purity, an increase of almost 8 kilogrammes since August.

Such highly enriched uranium can be easily refined to make atomic weapons, which is why world powers have sought to contain Tehran’s nuclear programme.

The Vienna-based agency told members that it is still not able to verify Iran’s exact stockpile of enriched uranium due to the limitations Tehran imposed on U.N. inspectors earlier this year.

The IAEA has been unable to access surveillance footage of Iranian nuclear sites or of online enrichment monitors and electronic seals since February. The agency’s chief, Rafael Mariano Grossi, told The Associated Press this month that the situation was like flying in a heavily clouded sky.

In a separate report to member states Wednesday about its work in Iran, the agency said Gross was concerned about inspectors being subjected to excessively invasive physical searches by security officials at nuclear facilities in Iran.”

He reiterates the call upon Iran to take immediate steps to remedy the situation, and to implement security procedures at nuclear facilities that are consistent with internationally accepted security practices and Iran’s legal obligations in relation to privileges and immunities of the agency and its inspectors, the IAEA said, according to the confidential quarterly report seen by The Associated Press.

The agency said it categorically rejects the idea its cameras at Iranian nuclear sites played a role in a sabotage attack on the Karaj facility near Tehran in June. Iran accuses Israel of being behind the incident.

Grossi is expected to travel to Tehran this month for direct talks with Iranian officials on restoring the agency’s ability to know in real-time what the country is doing. (AP)