US: Six-month clock on Iran nuclear deal hasn’t started

As Iran continue Arak construction, State Dept. says sides still ironing out technical details of deal implementation.

By JTA, REUTERS
November 27, 2013 21:24
2 minute read.
The Arak reactor, 190 kilometers southwest of Tehran

The Arak reactor, 190 kilometers southwest of Tehran 521. (photo credit: Reuters)

The six-month interim agreement with Iran on its nuclear program has not yet started, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.

The next step is “a continuation of technical discussions at a working level so that we can essentially tee up the implementation of the agreement,” she said.

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It’s not clear when the agreement will come into force, but in the meantime Psaki said the United States is “respecting the spirit of the agreement in pressing for sanctions not to be put in place” and expects that the same is coming from Iran’s end.

However, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told Iran’s Parliament on Wednesday that the Islamic Republic would continue to build the Arak heavy water plant in contravention of the announced agreement. The previous day, Iran said that the United States had not distributed an accurate account of the agreement.

The uncompleted research reactor emerged as one of several big stumbling blocks in the marathon negotiations, in which Iran agreed to restrain its atomic activities for six months in return for limited sanctions relief. The agreement is intended to buy time for talks on a final settlement of the dispute.

Western powers fear Arak could be a source of plutonium - one of two materials, along with highly enriched uranium, that can be used for the core of a nuclear weapon - once it is operational. Iran says it would produce medical isotopes only.

According to the agreed text, Iran said it would not make "any further advances of its activities" on the Arak reactor, under construction near a western Iranian town with that name.

"Capacity at the Arak site is not going to increase. It means no new nuclear fuel will be produced and no new installations will be installed, but construction will continue there," Zarif told parliament in translated comments broadcast on Iran's Press TV.

Experts have said that an apparent loophole in the Geneva agreement could allow Iran to build components off-site to install later in the reactor.

"The agreement is silent on the manufacturing of remaining key components of the reactor and its continued heavy-water production," former chief UN nuclear inspector Olli Heinonen wrote in an analysis.

"Technically, such efforts are not reasonable if the goal is either to dismantle the reactor or modify it to a more proliferation-resistant, smaller light-water reactor as one of the alternative paths of producing isotopes for medical and industrial purposes," he said.


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